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The Finnish government has never before appointed anyone as an Ambassador for Sport, but it did so at a Sport Gala, held in Helsinki on Tuesday 17 January.
The recipient was none other than Kimi Raikkonen, who received the honour from Prime Minister Juha Sipila. Kimi’s presence at the gala had been kept secret right up until the last moment.
Kimi Raikkonen: “I’m not that used to making formal speeches. But I would like to wish all the best to the winners in every category, as well as those who missed out on the prizes this year. I would stress how important it has been in my case to have the support of my family and help from trustworthy colleagues and the people within the Ferrari Team, with whom I have worked for so many years now.”
In 2017, Finland celebrates the centenary of its independence.
Translation: “I want to congratulate all who got awarded today and all who didn’t. This is a great honour to get awarded. For whole my career I’ve had the pleasure of working with good people and good teams. Right now I’m working in one of the world’s best companies (Ferrari) and teams. The biggest thing for me (in my life) has been the ability to do all the thing my way. Sometimes there have been some mishaps. But all and all I’ve believed in my own thing and did just that. You don’t always have to do things like your neighbour does them. Sometimes doing things your own way gets you success.”
If there is one driver who comes across as being very much his ‘own man’, it’s Ferrari’s 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen. But is Finland’s famous ‘Iceman’ really as single-minded as his laidback public persona suggests? It’s time to find out…
If you could pick just one meal to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Kimi Raikkonen: Salmon? Very Scandinavian…
If you could pick just one pizza topping what would it be?
KR: Tuna – to stick with the fish!
If you could pick just one holiday destination…
KR: Home. Who needs a holiday destination?
If you could pick just one track to race on…
KR: Spa, I guess.
If you could pick just one road car to drive…
KR: A Ferrari, of course. Any kind of Ferrari.
If you could pick just one race car to drive…
KR: Ferrari – the one I became world champion in (F2007).
If you could pick just one colour to wear…
If you could pick just one sport to play…
If you could pick just one song to listen to…
KR: Depends on the mood, so any! (Laughs) Or actually, the radio. So you see I’m not very sophisticated when it comes to music, but rather random.
If you could pick just one thing to drink…
If you could pick just one book to read…
KR: I don’t read. No books for me.
If you could pick just one city to live in…
KR: My summer place. It has a name, but I’d rather not tell you more than that it is in Finland.
KR: Nothing in particular.
If you could pick just one person to live with…
KR: My family – I’m unable to choose just one.
If you could pick just one team mate…
KR: This one that I have now.
If you could pick just one fruit to eat…
If you could pick just one vegetable to eat…
If you could pick just one mode of transport to use…
KR: Car – what else!
If you could pick just one F1 corner to drive…
KR: Eau Rouge.
If you could pick just one age to be…
KR: Any. I am super satisfied with my life so far.
If you could pick just one F1 era to race in…
If you could pick just one band/singer to listen to…
KR: When I was young it was Guns N’ Roses – but that’s a bit of a long time ago.
If you could pick just one piece of exercise equipment to train with…
KR: If I could I would do Motocross for exercise – all the time.
If you could pick just one thing to collect…
KR: I don’t collect anything. It’s boring.
If you could wear just one type of footwear to wear…
KR: Shoes! (Laughs)
If you could pick just one type of chocolate or candy to snack on…
KR: Finnish candy.
If you could pick just one memory from your racing career to keep…
KR: When I won the championship.
If you could pick just one other race series to watch…
KR: I watch a lot of motorsport, but my favourite is Motocross. Does that come as a surprise?
If you could pick just one person to date…
KR: I don’t need to worry about that!
Written by Dev Ty.
He didn’t conjure a single win in 2016! So that already sounds drab and maybe, dull to most. But then, neither did his team Ferrari. In a season where thankfully Nico Rosberg toppled Lewis to emerge right on top giving fans and critics something refreshingly new albeit in the same pecking order called Mercedes, Kimi Raikkonen’s 2016 Ferrari season can be judged in myriad ways.
Kimi endured a tough season. It wouldn’t be incorrect to state he emerged unsullied. But at the same time, he made the most of the given circumstances and roared, even if with an understated grunt, in his massively impressive tacit style. And in the process of collecting 4 useful podium finishes, including two stellar drives at Bahrain and Spain.
In the end of 2016
There weren’t victories, but were clear indications on 4 occasions. And siding with conjecture, if only for pure love of Kimi reveals that two clear missed opportunities were the fall outs at Bahrain, where Kimi’s smolderingly quick pace, seeing him one tenths of a second behind Hamilton almost saw the Finn edge out the Briton. It wasn’t to be. Then, in Spain, Raikkonen, who finished P2 yet again, missed the win, thanks to indifferent pit strategies and Mercedes’ overpowering pace.
But given Merc’s dominant form this season, yet another year where they reigned and deservingly so, Raikkonen didn’t deteriorate. He didn’t bleed dry tears. He didn’t dissipate under pressure. Truth be told, Kimi, etched on 186 at the end on P6 suggested a strong improvement in form, pace performance and most importantly, qualifying.
Nico’s delight, Hamilton’s fury, Max’s rise and Kimi’s resurgence
Sebastian Vettel, the famous 4 time world champion made infamous by his failure to take Ferrari where he could have, rather should have, was, by no means of imagination Ferrari’s top driver. Despite him finishing P4, above Max and teammate Kimi, Vettel, Abu Dhabi kept aside was a frail shadow of himself.
Beaten fair and square by a vastly improved Kimi, whose staying put at the Scuderia even for 2017 saw a sudden, visible rise in the Finn’s qualifying form, was enough to exasperate the German. This doesn’t mean that Kimi’s ‘closest friend’ didn’t show glimpse of his mettle at Abu Dhabi’s electrifying Yas Marina, a track where Ferrari’s last world champ exulted, ‘leave me alone, I know what am doing’.
But let’s focus on Kimi’s intricacies and passionate resolve in 2016, leaving cold calling alone
At the end of the season, trumped by the Wiesbaden-born mercurial Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen’s tally reads 186 points. Too bad? Not really is it? P6! That hurts? Yes, perhaps because before entering Austin, Raikkonen was etched and perhaps fated to finish P4. But who said Ferrari crew have been awarded for their faint and vague revered pit strategies? They’ve failed Raikkonen evidently on more occasions than the laconic Finn would have liked! It’s just that they don’t learn and Kimi doesn’t word it out. Gladly, the events in 2016 didn’t mirror the complete lack of efforts rallied to push Kimi’s struggling 2014 menacing disaster. At least, there were failures, there weren’t scathing and apparent ignorance on his crews’ part this year.
A season compromised by Ferrari?
One would hope that the tumultuous season, many who call it a disaster for Ferrari, now over, Maurizio would be sleeping well. But wouldn’t he be traumatized a bit by Kimi’s Austin failure, which should actually be accorded to his pit crew’s wile antics and not the driver?
Would Maurizio Arrevabene forgive the rains of Brazil? Has Raikkonen himself made peace with the fact that instead of holding on to P3, where, from the beginning he had seemed comfortable, ended up into the advertising board of Heineken? Even if the scenario rhymes, the viewers and world-wide Ferrari fans didn’t appreciate the sight.
Confrontations with Max
If Austin fiasco for Kimi was forgiven by fans and Brazil’s wet overhaul overlooked, the season’s most polarized confrontation with Max Verstappen and his Red Bull at Hungaroring was adrenaline inspiring stuff, truth be told.
Raikkonen, despite a gritty P5 at Hungary, having begun P14, was adjudged the driver of the race within minutes of Hamilton clinching Hungary. The corner 2 clash with the Dutchman was what they say daredevilry, not only on the part of an aggressive ‘Mad Max’ but precise albeit ostentatious defending by Kimi, who went down fighting in the end for P4, but not bowing out at any stage.
Comparisons with 2015 vis-a-vis 2016 for Raikkonen
Cool, calm and perhaps weighing understated appeal over mindlessness and staid measure over hapless aggression, Raikkonen, a man of few words and once, a direct promoter of video game Angry Birds (picture Lotus 2013 car), has gone from strength to strength in his Ferrari stint, the second of his career.
Even though there hasn’t been a victory, it has always seemed that one is around the corner. If 2015’s Kimi, the one who finished P4 was improving, then 2016’s Kimi, also the one trailing Seb for the second year in a row, closed a huge gap.
That he was trailing the Heppenheim-born champion by a whopping 128 points, managing mere 150 in 2015 clearly hurt. Despite Raikkonen doing his characteristic sizzle on speed then. But in 2016, he came vastly close to Seb, closing the gap from his German teammate, who he trailed this year by mere 26 points. Sebastian at P4 with 212 would feel slightly helped by Raikkonen’s dramatic Austin failure (race retirement) and Brazil’s accident on an incredibly wet Interlagos.
Some lost chances
Bolstered by strong podium finishes, first in Bahrain’s night safari (P2)and then Austria’s Spielberg circuit( P3), Raikkonen continued his good form clinching some incredible highs through a fluent P2 at Spain, a race that clearly belonged to Max. He would finally exchange pleasantries with Vladimir Putin at P3 at Sochi, the last fans saw their hero on the podium.
But amidst the cheer and euphoria, a distant possibility of emerging somewhere at the top was clinched by clearly one of the finest driver’s of 2016, Sergio Perez, who overtook Kimi on the final lap at Baku. Raikkonen poised for a firm and commanding P3 had to settle for a somewhat indifferent P4. His dismal failures thanks to the inexplicable Ferrari error at Austin didn’t help his cause.
Thankfully, Kimi soldiered on, marshalling his SF16H on pure will and staid elegance to mace salt in the face of his critics who had questioned his ‘attitude and seriousness’ for qualifying. Out-pacing Sebastian, for some, a faster driver, Kimi outscored the Deutscher 11-to-10 in 2016, a statistic burgeoned by Kimi’s will to exult his authority on Fridays, regardless of the outcome on Sundays. What helps additionally is that in Hungary, the ‘Iceman’ set his 43rd overall fastest lap, and his only one for the year that clearly belonged to Nico, according to Kimi, the ‘better and deserving man in Mercedes’.
But while fans would have certainly hoped that Raikkonen could’ve have edged out Max at Hungary and Spain and not have succumbed to the complete loss of traction at Brazil, there were clear positives as numbers indicate above.
The usual grins, the irate and risen brows and the laughing at the face of adversities, Kimi was the charming self in 2016. Thank heavens he didn’t lose out on brownie points unlike Vettel’s diatribe on Charlie in Austin’s complex saga. At times, struggling with rear tyres and running on depleted car handling, faltered by poor racing strategies, Kimi was once again the stoic albeit elegant looking dude on zooming wheels. The sharply dressed man in red, wearing cool weathers on his sleeve gave usual monosyllabic answers and proved frustration isn’t a word in his dictionary, even though he may have marked a book-mark on the phrase that says ‘Max’.
But for next year, we have to hope that the victories come. They should. Everyone like’s a smiling Kimi, the red assassin. Regardless of cast, color, creed, everyone agrees, he’s still got the speed. Let’s just leave him alone. He knows what he is doing.