Kimi Raikkonen began his Formula 1 career in 2001 with Sauber. Now after 20 years, he will end it there, too.
Kimi Raikkonen is the oldest driver on the Formula 1 grid and has been in the sport, save for a hiatus here and there, for 20 years. He’s entered 345 grand prix (and that number is still climbing), claimed 18 pole positions, 21 victories, and finished on the podium 103 times. He’s also Ferrari’s most recent Driver’s World Champion, he claimed the title in 2007.
In short, he’s had one helluva career.
It all started in 2001, when Peter Sauber saw something in the young Finn and plucked him from Formula Renault racing. Having competed in just 23 car races prior to his F1 debut, Raikkonen seemed a risky choice. But those concerns almost immediately vanished after Raikkonen finished 6th in his debut.
From 2002 through 2006, Raikkonen raced for McLaren, won several races, and finished 2nd in the chmpionship twice: 2003 and 2005. He then moved to Ferrari in 2007, where he won more races and the Driver’s World Championship. In 2010 and 2011, he left open-wheel racing and competed in the World Rally Championship with Citroen and dabbled in NASCAR racing here in the U.S. In 2012, he returned to F1 with Lotus, won another race and stepped on to the podium a total of four times to finish third in that year’s championship. And by 2014, he was back at Ferrari, where he stayed through the 2018 season.
In 2019, he moved to Alfa Romeo Racing, or Sauber by another name. This seemed a great place for the World Champion. He’s still able to compete in Formula 1, yet with fewer of those pesky media obligations, and less attention paid to his every move during a Grand Prix weekend.
And here lies Raikkonen’s curse: His disinterest in the fame side of Formula 1 racing and near distain displayed to reporters repetitive questions, only added to his appeal. Raikkonen invoked mystery because he said little and showed even less emotion. His snarky, short, unrevealing answers to journalists became a challenge that journalists wanted to overcome with more questions. His desire to be left alone only got him more attention.
Kimi Raikkonen is unique. A man that loves racing, but little of anything else that surrounds it. He’s immensely fast and also highly respectful to other drivers on track. Uninterested in who he’s teamed with and, as a result, not shaken by their relatively good or bad performance.
“Just leave me alone, I know what to do.” Raikkonen’s famous reply to to his engineers at Lotus F1 towards the end of the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, a race he went on to win, summed up his entire career perfectly. And now that he’s truly retiring from the sport, maybe we all finally will.
But probably not.
Kimi, but do you have a a few moments for a chat on my podcast?