Fast-tracked into the sport with the shortest CV on four wheels, the unknown newcomer who came from nowhere and said next to nothing immediately proved he knew exactly what he was doing: driving a Formula One car as fast as it could possibly go. The car couldn’t always keep up with his talent and it took seven seasons for Kimi ‘Iceman’ Raikkonen to become World Champion. Notoriously inanimate and uncommunicative, the silent speedster’s frozen expression in fact masked the hidden depths in one of the coolest, most original characters in the sport’s history…
Kimi Matias Raikkonen spent his childhood in a house built by his great grandfather in Espoo, a suburb of the Finnish capital, Helsinki. To provide for Kimi, born on October 17, 1979, and his older brother Rami, their hard-working parents Matti and Paula toiled, respectively, as a road builder and an office clerk. Money was scarce but the Raikkonens were a happy family and their humble homestead surrounded by open countryside was an ideal environment for the two rambunctious youngsters to flex their racing muscles. At first (when Kimi was just three years old) the brothers tore around on miniature motocross bikes fitted with training wheels. A move to karts paved the way for Kimi (who began competitive karting at 10) and Rami (who eventually became a successful rally driver) to make rapid progress in motorsport, though it came at a cost. Matti had to work nights as a taxi driver and nightclub bouncer and funds diverted to karting meant plans to replace the outside lavatory with a proper bathroom in the family home had to be postponed.
Kimi, a reluctant student who used his schoolbag as a sled to slide down snow-covered hills, enjoyed winter sports, especially ice hockey, though he eventually gave it up because he hated getting up for early-morning practice. At 16 he left school and enrolled in a course for mechanics, believing this skill might be the only way to stay involved in motorsport. Very soon his mechanical expertise, and the need for family funding, became superfluous, as Kimi’s natural talent for driving fast led to sponsored rides.
Following a rapid series of successes in Finnish, Nordic and European karting, he jumped into a racing car and promptly won two British-based Formula Renault championships. In the fall of 2000, despite having just 23 car races to his name, he was given a test by the Sauber Formula One team. Impressed by his immediate pace and assured approach, Sauber shrewdly signed the 21-year old to drive for them in 2001. His having short-circuited the conventional route to the top provoked fierce debate over his right, let alone his readiness, to race at the pinnacle of motorsport. Raikkonen rapidly silenced his critics (he finished sixth in his Grand Prix debut) and attracted the attention of McLaren, who saw him as a likely successor to the retiring two-time champion, Mika Hakkinen.
One Finn after another proved to be a good thing for McLaren, for whom Kimi the ‘Iceman’ never gave less than his maximum, always driving to a personal limit that at least equalled, sometimes exceeded, the best of his peers. Experts endlessly praised his seamless, straightforward, mostly mistake-free style. “I never really think about what I’m doing,” Kimi said in a rare outburst of self-analysis. “I just do it.”
His five seasons at McLaren coincided with a period of unevenly performing, often unreliable, cars. Yet he finished second in the championship twice (2003 and 2005), won nine races and finished in the top three on 36 occasions. His podium appearances and subsequent TV interviews exposed him to public scrutiny under which he tended to squirm and fidget, tugging his ears, rubbing his nose and trying to hide beneath his baseball cap. He seldom smiled, spoke sparingly in a mumbled monotone, then all but ran for the nearest exit.
Yet in his private life the poker-faced enigma’s icy reserve was prone to spectacular bouts of thawing out. ‘Drunken Race Ace Kimi Bounced Out Of Lapdance Club For Fiddling With His Gearstick!’ shrieked a headline in a British tabloid newspaper. Spanish media gleefully reported that the vodka-loving Flying Finn was found lying fast asleep outside a bar embracing an inflatable rubber dolphin. In Monaco he was filmed cavorting on a yacht, swaying unsteadily on the upper deck then falling onto a lower level where he landed on his head.
“What I do in my private life doesn’t make me drive any slower,” the free-spirited speedster insisted. In truth, the Iceman’s private life was running smoothly and he was well-settled on the domestic front, having in 2004 married Jenni Dahlman, a gorgeous Finnish fashion model and former Miss Scandinavia. At their sumptuous Swiss home there was plenty of room for their two dogs and Kimi’s car collection. Asked to name his most prized possessions, he replied: “My wife and my Ferrari Enzo.”
In 2007 he began driving a Ferrari Formula One car for a living, having been hired (for a reported $41 million a year) to fill the considerable void left by the departing seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher, whose unrivalled work ethic and team leadership qualities were not part of a Raikkonen repertoire that seemed more akin to another past champion. A week before his debut with the team, Ferrari’s new recruit was in Finland, winning a dangerous snowmobile race he had entered under the alias of ‘James Hunt.’ When the same ‘James Hunt’ later competed in a powerboat race dressed in a gorilla suit Kimi said he invoked the name of his hero as a riposte to the media sensationalization of his private life.
He got off to a fast start with Ferrari, winning the season-opener from pole position, though by the penultimate race he was third in the driver standings, behind the McLaren team mates Fernando Alonso, seeking a third successive title, and Lewis Hamilton, the record-breaking rookie. Though Raikkonen had won more races, five to their four apiece, he remained the long shot among the trio of contenders at the final race, in Brazil. The phlegmatic Finn delivered sensationally, winning the race and the 2007 World Drivers’ Championship by a single point.
On the podium the new champion swigged as much champagne as he sprayed and, grinning at last, the Iceman broke his silence with a veritable torrent of words. “I’m very happy. I came from pretty much nothing but my family, friends and sponsors helped me get here. People will probably look differently at me and make up more stories about me. But I am going to lead my life as I want and that’s it.”
And so he did. In two more seasons with Ferrari his results tapered off, as did his interest in continuing. At the end of 2009 Ferrari offered him a lucrative way out by buying up the final year of his contract (to make way for Fernando Alonso). Kimi spent the next two seasons amusing himself in the World Rally Championship, an experience he found no substitute for competing at the pinnacle of motorsport, where an opportunity to make a comeback came quickly. At the end of the 2011 season the Lotus Renault GP F1 team announced that in 2012 it would be led by Kimi Raikkonen.
First Road Car: Lada
Cars: Ferrari Enzo, BMW M3, Fiat 500
First Time in an F1 Car: Sauber Test, Mugello, 2000
Company Cars: Mercedes ML (Switzerland), Mercedes C-Class (Finland) (Sept. 2002) and the Mercedes CLK (Dec. 2002)
Dream Road Car: Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren
Bikes: Iceman & Iceman II, Iceman Spyder (Snowmobile)
Race Engineers: Mark Slade (2002-2006), Chris Dyer (2007, 2008) & Andrea Stella (2009), Cedric Mazenq (2010 WRC)
Kimi’s Managers: Steve Robertson, David Robertson
Physio/Trainer: Mark Arnall
Co-Driver: Kaj Lindstrom
2011 Team: ICE ONE RACING
2010 Team: Citroen Junior Team
2010 Teammate: Dani Sordo, Sebastien Ogier
Parents: Matti & Paula (Matti passed away on 23rd December 2010)
Grandmother: Sirkka (passed away in 2009)
Brother: Rami (Rally driver)
Nephews: Juustu and Titus
Wife: Jenni Dahlman (married 31st July 2004)
Best Friend: Toni Vilander (GT driver)
Hobbies: Snowboarding, jogging, going to the gym, Motocross, Snowcross, ice-hockey, skidoos, jet-ski, golf (learned in England), Rallying (participated in four rallies)
Motorsports: Watches almost all motorsports on TV
Favorite Rally Driver: Tommi Mäkinen and Markus Gronholm , friends with Anton Alen
Favorite Ice Hockey Team: Espoo, Finland and enthusiastically watches the NHL teams
Favorite Football Team: Finnish National Soccer Team
Best F1 Overtaking Manouver: Mika Häkkinen overtaking Michael Schumacher in Spa 2000
Qualification: Regular Finnish school system
Favorite Subject: Sports (esp. ice hockey during winter)
Conscription: 12 months compulsary service in Finnish Army
Languages Spoken: Finnish and English
Fans: “Its nice to have fans and I really like all the support I get.”
Website Visits: “Yes for sure.” (Read various Kimi interviews)
Salary: $51M/three year deal for 2007-2009 with Ferrari (2009 Salary)
Net Worth: Approximately $16.3M, ranked 28th in 2003 F1 Rich List, ranked 2nd in 2009 best-paid celebrities under 30,
Charity: Donates to SOS Children’s Villages
|1987-||First time in kart|
|1988-||Karting, some wins in Classes A, B and C|
|1989-||Karting, some wins in Classes A, B and C|
|1990-||Karting, some wins in Classes A, B and C|
|1991-||National karting, Class Mini|
|1992-||National karting, Class Raket Junior|
|1993-||National karting, Class Raket, Finnish Cup, 9th overall.|
|1994-||National karting, Class Raket, Finnisch Cup, 2nd overall.|
|1995-||Formula A Karting: first race, and first win, 23rd April.|
|1996-||Karting Grand Prix (European Series) World Championship races and Nordic Championship races; no wins in Finnish Championship, Class Formula A; finished 4th overall|
|1997-||Finnish Championship, Class Intercontinental A, Champion Nordic Championship, Class Intercontinental A; 4th overall, Karting Grand Prix and World Championship races – invited to drive with Peter de Bruin Team|
|1998-||Lived in the Netherlands. Finnish Championship, class Formula A; Champion. Nordic Championship; Champion. Class Formula Intercontinental A, European Karting Grand Prix; winner. Super A; 2nd overall. Monaco Cup, class Super A; 3rd overall. World Championship, Formula Super A; retired from 7th position.|
|Finnish Championship, Class Formula A; 2nd overall. Finnish World Championship, class Formula Super A; 10th. Ford Zetec Euro Cup; 5th. Ford Festival, retired in the final. First Formula Renault race, with Haywood Racing; 3rd. Formula Renault Winter Series, with Manor Motorsport; winner, with four wins from four races.|
|British Renault 2000, Champion with Manor Motorsport (despite competing in only 10 rounds of the series), seven wins, six pole positions, seven fastest laps. Finished on the podium in all 10 races contested; European Formula Renault Championship: competed in only three rounds, two wins, two pole positions, two fastest laps. Retired while leading in third race due to mechanical failure. Tested for Red Bull Sauber Petronas Formula One team at Mugello
by Timothy Collings, England (2001)
Formula One journalists are used to seeing new promising talents show up in Formula One, racked up with trophies from F3000 or F3, hailed as the Next Best Thing, then only to vanish into the long list of “had potential” has-beens. But Kimi Raikkonen is different. He simply showed up out of nowhere, with little if any experience in open wheel racing. The FIA refused to give him a superlicense; the pundits in the paddock raised an eyebrow at Peter Sauber. Four races into the season, Kimi-mania is very much alive, and veterans of the press center are talking about the young Finn with enthusiasm rarely seen. Timothy Collings caught up with the endearing youngster, to hear from him about life in the fast lane.
Having overcome some pre-season prejudice caused by his inexperience, a team decision to ban his and his teammate’s girlfriends from the garage, pits and team hotel, and a cynical press with little faith in Peter Sauber’s ability to spot a rising star, Kimi Raikkonen will have enjoyed hearing the sound of words being munched with rare enthusiasm in the last few weeks. This 21-year-old open-faced, broad-shouldered and straight-talking Finn is a rising star, has phenomenal talent and will almost certainly have a flock of females following him around for months and years to come, whatever anyone may try to do about it. In short, as Frank Williams has recently admitted, he is the newcomer to have made the biggest impression so far in the 2001 season.
Yet, to meet him is to meet a shy, bashful and endearingly unsophisticated young man with few cares in the world apart from the performance of his Sauber Petronas car. Speed, reliability and drivability are the keystones of his life. And the rest of it all is taken in his stride with a slow grin. He is not used to big crowds, noisy cities or polluted racetracks. He is used to wide open spaces and nature all around him close to his native Espoo in Finland. But nobody would ever know. He just eats it all up with a vengeance.
“Formula One is easier than I expected it to be,” he said at Imola. “I was worried at first, more nervous than upset. But it is not so bad. I am getting used to it now. Maybe the worst thing was just the start and getting used to things. When we were told ‘no girlfriends’ it was a bit of a fuss, you know. But, I am not bothered now by the rules, they are not against me. If I want to bring my girlfriend here now, I can. There are no special races. And about the superlicence to drive in Formula One – I don’t think about it. It is not a worry. They will check it, they are just rules — not a problem.”
In speech, Raikkonen wastes nothing. Words come sparingly. He talks as he drives, with controlled precision. Speed is gained by the lack of fuss. The message is communicated and he is ready for the next question. It is not like talking to Keke Rosberg, not quite yet, but there is something of all Finns in this young man with his steady gaze, steady hands and outrageous level of ability. No wonder Peter Sauber is smiling all the way to Maranello for his next batch of customer engines from Ferrari. His only real beef, in the circumstances, will be that the new Finnish superstar may also end up in a scarlet machine, perhaps as Michael Schumacher’s next change of partner.
However, confusion still reigns over the conclusion of Raikkonen’s probation period after the young Finn was voted into Formula One before the start of the season, despite his very limited experience, and he is currently racing on a provisional superlicence. Before the start of the season, Peter Sauber, manager of Raikkonen’s team, said that the young star’s superlicence would be under review after the fourth race of the season in San Marino, but with that over, the FIA have remained quiet on the matter, and no-one connected with the young star has been contacted.
The FIA regulations state that every new driver receives his superlicence on a probationary period of one year, but Raikkonen received his license under exceptional circumstances. The governing body have confirmed that this means he will have his performance reviewed after every three months during his first Grand Prix year, but could not reveal when the superlicence was issued. However, a spokesperson confirmed it is extremely unlikely that the license would be taken away considering Raikkonen’s superb performances during the season so far, and added that the probation automatically continues unless there are any problems.
But at this time of his career, Raikkonen is not concerned by the supposed uncertainty of his future and he is more interested in learning circuits, people’s names and other drivers’ good and bad habits. “Yes, this is my first time here, I’ve never been here before,” he confirmed in Imola, at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. “I think it is quite a nice circuit. And for me it is nice to be back in Europe again. The circuit is good. Uphill and downhill which is interesting. I like it. I liked Brazil quite a lot. But they are all different. So far, I have liked them all and they have all been new!
“It makes no difference to me that we have Ferrari engines. It means nothing with me or the Italian crowd. I am just driving the same as anywhere. I feel better, now, of course, than at the beginning of the season. I have more confidence. Then I was unsure what it was going to be like in Formula One. Now, I know. There are no surprises I think. I know a little bit now. You always learn something every time you go in the car and you go quicker every time. Now, for me, it is getting better because I am learning more things all the time. I am more used to it and I am getting faster and better, I think.
“Of the 17 circuits for this year, I have only driven at Barcelona, and at Spa, Silverstone — but only on the half circuit, and Magny-Cours in testing. No others. Not Monza. But I think I learn quickly. I have no special system. I just go easy at first and the best thing is to have someone else that you can go behind for a while. But of course you don’t always get any help. I haven’t asked anyone for help at all. I slow down if someone is coming and they are quicker. Also I find the in-car camera is a big help when I watch the other drivers.
“I have done a few races now, yes, but I still don’t really know anybody. Not personally. Not the other drivers. It is not like that. I know Mika a bit, of course. He talks to me sometimes at the drivers’ briefing. We have a little talk. I didn’t follow him particularly, but of course I remember well when he started in Formula One. When I started to go racing, I had no idea that I wanted to go to Formula One. That only started for me in the last two years. And I have been very lucky to have good management behind me — my main manager is Steve Robertson.
“I have always enjoyed motorsport. When I was five or something, I was doing moto-cross and things like that. I liked it. Yes, I could have gone to rallying, but I didn’t because my brother was in rallying. I was not going to do the same as him. My older brother and me, we were both in karts and doing OK. I didn’t want to copy him. He is nearly two years older than me and his name is Rami. I don’t get home much. I have just moved to Switzerland to live in Hinwil. I have been there for four days now. It is good. I have my own place and I like it. But it is difficult to be there very long as we are always away somewhere. It is something I have to get used to…”
Like racing among the big boys, showing people that he deserves not only a superlicense but to be among the Formula One front-runners, and that he has the talent to go all the way to the top.