Matti and Paula Räikkönen: From Our Kimi To Iceman
(2001) Written by: Raila Kinnunen and Vesa Eskola
| Translation courtesy of Nicole
What happens when a normal family’s normal boy proves to be special and
gets into the 22 best? Kimi Räikkönen got a F1-seat and a licence but
mother and father, Paula and Matti Räikkönen hope that life wold stay
as it was. Their wish is fulfilled if they have as much love in the
family as they have had uptil now.
The feeling is the same as it usually is after a big moment of
happiness. The dream becomes true, the joy is enourmous and yet there
is sorrowness in the air: what was is left behind, a lot changes, maybe
It’s been a few days since Kimi Räikkönen, 21, came out with the
historical news: he got the superlicense to F1 although he hadn’t drove
one meter in F3.
"We have done our part, Kimi and Steve Robertson will take care of
the rest. We only give emotional support now," Matti Räikkönen, Kimi’s
"It is painful to let go. It will take a few weeks until we get ourselves psyched into thinking that this really is true."
Kimi’s mother Paula Räikkönen continues:
"This came with such a bang. Kimi called Masa’s cellphone on
August 15th when we were in Tuupovaara where Rami was rallying telling
that he will go and test F1 within a month. I thought then that I am
going to faint. Fortunately Masa (Matti) caught me when my feet just went
"I prepared her and told her to sit down, that I have an incredible thing to tell," Matti tells.
"Fortunately we have this older son Rami, who is one year and 10
months older than Kimi and who drives rally. I have enough to do with
Rami," Masa says and grins somewhat sadly.
He is a big, stable, bear-like 46-year old man. Paula, 47, is smaller, blond, fast and clear in her talks, more temperamentic.
IT TOOK TIME, MONEY AND STRENGTH
Here we have a fresh Finnish heroic story where sisu, toughness,
trial and companionship is combined. This story has four heros, Kimi,
Masa, Paula and Rami.
"Everything happened like in secret. I mean we started this only
so we could give the boys a good and a healthy hobby. And then the
hobby has grown into bigger and bigger circles," father Räikkönen
Matti Räikkönen is a machineman who is a mechanic with skillful fingers. Paula is a secretary, a woman of action.
"All hobbies are good but driving is tricky because the small boys
don’t get with their machinery from track to track. If a boy plays
ice-hockey you can take turns with other parents, in this hobby it
doesn’t work. We travelled with these two sometimes even 17 races in
one summer and when the distances are what they are it doesn’t mean
from Friday evening to Sunday, it often means from Wednesday to Sunday,"
"When the boys started to drive national races – Kimi was eight –
we had to get a van and a trailor so that we could get to the races,"
"It took all the time, money and strength," she calmly says.
Matti worked two or three jobs, drove taxi and was a doorman.
Sometimes they had to decide whether to continue the boy’s driving
business or make an indoor toilet. They didn’t and the boys got to
"Once we came all the way from Belgium to Finland with only a Shell
credit card. Fortunately the family stuck together!" Matti tells.
"Sometimes we had moments of doubts but aren’t bad times meant to be won," she challenges.
"We never had the feeling that we should quit. Sometimes we just
realised that we don’t have enough money. We cried in the telephone to
one way and another so that we could continue," Paula talks.
"The family has all the time been very closely together, we have
shared both the joy and the sorrow. Because of course there has been
sorrow and disappointments too. Winning is a rare treat," Matti defines.
The family’s inside joke is what Kimi said when
they were going home through Italy that ‘I will get you a castle from
here one day’.
"It came so sincerely from Kimi. And when we came from another
race that went bad, Kimi pointed at a castle that was in really bad
shape that ‘I’ll buy you a castle like that mom, I don’t have enough
money to buy another one’," Matti laughs.
There are wild rumours about Kimi’s salary at Sauber but it’s clear
that it’s seven- or eight-numbered figures and you could even build a
toilet of marble with golden handles with that money.
"We don’t have to support Kimi anymore. In that way things got
easier about a year ago. Kimi is living on his own earnings and we have
definitely noticed that!" Räikkönen’s say.
"I don’t want life to change, I want it to stay as it was before," Matti says.
"This has been Kimi’s dream but it was never our dream. We have
just lived and helped him the best we could to get forward. In this
genre the hunger gets bigger and bigger when you realise that you have
talent, you have to take it to the end and see where it takes you,"
"Many can say that I live through my children. It’s not true. We
just got a hobby that combined the whole family and it started growing
bigger," Matti says.
They both thank their employers who have been flexible and understanding.
"That has been essential to the whole business, it wouldn’t have
worked out if we couldn’t hold our vacations in parts," they say.
BROTHERS ARE LIKE NIGHT AND DAY
So what is this Kimi Raikkonen like – according to his parents?
"He is gutsy and terribly stubborn but also very sensitive," mother says.
"It think that Kimi has grown all the time along with his career.
Of course he has taken damn big steps during the last
days but I have never been worried about the boy’s head," father says.
"Kimi isn’t more mature than others his age. When he has time his
friends come over and they go to sauna according to the long schedule
and go to a disco after that. He has a girlfriend and things like that,
he is an ordinary boy," mother says.
The girlfriend is cute and wonderful but she doesn’t want to be in the spotlight.
"Kimi has lived in Holland and England, of course that helps to grow up and become independent," father thinks.
"The brothers are like night and day. Rami was something like
seven when we said that he is the smartest person in our family. Rami
always thinks first before acting, Kimi is the complete opposite, does
first and figures out afterwards what he went and did," father laughs.
Mother calls the firstborn a diplomat.
"Rami started driving a motorbike when he was 3,5 years old. You
couldn’t give Kimi one until he was 5. Kimi’s nature is of the kind
that you go always flat out," Matti describes.
"They drove karting together. Rami was softer, you can see his
goodness best when you drive against time or against your own best
performance. He is much more softer than Kimi as a driver. You have to
be more aggressive and rude on the track. It was clear ever since they
were small that they both drive in their own style. They didn’t want to
learn from each other – not even if we tried. They both thought that
the other one had no hands – therefore you can’t learn anything from
him," father tells.
He regrets a little of his scetching and says that you can’t compare your two boys, both are equally dear.
But you can read between the lines that Rami is
better off in rally where he can drive alone, Kimi again is better on a
track where he can squeeze in, ambush, overtake, go flat out, put
others in line without endangering anyone.
"The boys were always together ever since they were small. I
almost cried when I looked at albums and saw that in every picture
there was two boys. The other one was alone in only a few pictures,
they were always together and did everything together, Paula says.
"Of course they had fights, you polish one another through them.
But the relationship and the foundation is there even though they
wouldn’t see each other that often," she continues.
MANY TAKE PART IN A LOTTERY, ONLY ONE WINS
They talk about an eye for the game. Should you also talk about an
eye for driving, a natural ability to find the best driving line and
realise what braking causes in different situations?
"Absolutely. Everybody develop if they repeat enough but I also
believe that there is talent. Someone can learn to reach a certain
level and some other can already be there when he starts and continue
somewhere else where the other one never will reach," Masa describes.
Kimi Räikkönen is a driver talent, everybody has agreed upon that,
even those who have been doubtful about his quick progress to F1.
Fysiotherapist Jukka Viitasaari who has tuned the slim Kimi during
last months into a young man who is more tougher than an arrow goes
totally reckless. Viitasaari has worked a lot with drivers but he
compares Kimi to Mozart, a genious in his own profession who can play
any instrument: cello, violin, piano – everything goes and everything
Without even coughing Kimi jumped from a 185-horsepowered Formula Renault into an 800-horsepowered F1-car.
"Kimi has always stood out somehow and he has been picked and
taken forward because of his driving skills and showings, we really
didn’t have the money and we haven’t bought Kimi one single seat," Paula
Räikkönen says realistically.
It was a surprise for those in the Sauber-team how efficiently and
analytically Kimi is able to tell what kind of setups he wants to the
car and why.
"Ever since Kimi learned to walk he has fumbled with all kinds of
gadgets. I don’t think that anybody can make a fast car for anyone.
Everybody wants a bit different setups and you have to be able to tell
what it feels like and what might cause it," Matti explains.
Kimi was in technical school’s car-department for 1,5 year until he
had to leave school for other engagements. Many of his class mates
didn’t even know what the guy was doing – which tells a lot about the
young man’s character.
Concentration and self-confidence are in the right place in Kimi.
He often says: you should not bow in front of pictures, "we all eat the
Eddie Irvine wished Kimi welcome as his colleague, Ralf Schumacher again gave doubtful statements.
Kimi thinks that everybody can think what they want, it isn’t his business.
Matti says diplomatically like this:
"Very few get into F1, someone’s success is alway taken away from
someone else. Kimi has taken someone’s job who has been driving for a
long time and dreamt of the same thing."
Tens of thousaunds wishful boys race all over the world in
different races and they all have the same dream burning in their
veins: The Royal Class. 22 gets in there.
"Many take part in lotteries and somebody always wins it," Matti says.
Are you scared?
"Everything is always possible. Anything can happen in normal
traffic. In Europe we are more afraid of the journeys there than we are
of the tracks," Räikkönen’s answer.
Paula tells that the bigger classes that look so daring when
watching from the television always made her think with pleasure that
fortunately our boys never get that far but when getting there they
have proved to be okay. The boy has learned and matured during the
journey. But as a mother she can’t watch the races, it’s too exciting.
"Sometimes we have said when dreaming that if Kimi ever gets to F1
we will go to the first race! It’s just a shame that it’s so far away
in Melbourne!" Paula sighs – so far they have seen only one GP.
YOU CAN ALWAYS COME HOME
Many families have somekind of advice they say to their kids when
they walk out the door. Behave, drive carefully, remember to call.
"Our boys haven’t had time to circulate in any gangs but I always
tell them when they are going somewhere that ‘keep your sense in your
hand’. If someone jumps into a well then we don’t have to jump after.
Think before you do something," Paula says.
"And you can always come home. No matter what happens you can always come home, the door is open," Kimi’s father continues.
Kimi comes from F1-Racing -magazine’s photoshooting, the Swiss
filming teams is buzzing around him – they are making a portrait of
Kimi to a German channel’s sport news.
Kimi is quiet, careful, a man of few words. He grins if the other
one really makes an effort to entertain him – his dad says that he has
always strived to pull tricks and fool his boys so that they wouldn’t
become too serious.
The hero gets to come home for Christmas from Barcelona’s testing.
He has already got his parents christmas-presents – although he already
gave the best around the Independence Day.
When the news about Kimi’s F1-seat spread, Matti Räikkönen’s 4
cellphones got swamped with congratulations. Even Mika Salo’s father
called to congratulate. Someone brought a beautiful rosebush and two
bottles of champagne to their yard, otherwise life has gone on like
But it’s just calm before the tornado.
Father gives his son a Sisu (Sisu is a pastill and also something like Mojo).
Little Kimi, How Much You Have Grown
(SportWeek 24-02-2007) Translation courtesy of TaniaS
Finland, Dad Matti, Mom Paula, the friend and rival Toni Vilander tell
the (eventful) childhood of the Ferrari driver. “In every thing he has
made he has always shown his true nature. Overtaking.
symbol feature of Kimi Raikkonen is not his typically Finnish nature,
neither his silent attitude, nor his affectionate attachment to the
family. Rather, in every thing he does, the driver of Espoo puts his
inexhaustible agonistic energy. Every funny thing this Finnish 27
years-old guy does with his friends, he makes it a personal challenge.
“It’s difficult to play with Kimi, for example at ping pong. If I play
well, Kimi always must try to prevail, however”, explains the bigger
brother Rami Raikkonen. “Sometimes you have to let Kimi winning,
because he does not stop it until he has won. This is for everything
you make, both for a bicycle trip and for a tennis match”, confirms
Toni Vilander, a race rival who now is Kimi’s bosom friend. Like every
Finn, Raikkonen loves the cross country skiing. The skating step,
according the trainer Mark Arnall, is perfect to reinforce the legs of
a driver: “But absolutely I don’t think to go skiing with Kimi”, smiles
Arnall, who is in perfect form but he has already tried to fight with
Kimi in various other sports… Kimi in fact is interested in all that is
only similar to a sport. When he presented a racing horse to his wife
Jenni and he tried for the first time in his life to ride it, he
immediatly tried to go the animal as fast as possible on track. At the
end he began to scream to know how to stop the horse. Fortunately the
crazy run happily finished in front of a high obstacle, but since that
day Jenni Dahlman-Raikkonen have never more given permission to his
husband to ride her horses. The Raikkonens love the animals: in
addition to the horses they have two dogs, a German sheperd named Aksu
and a Jack Russell Terrier, Peppi. But Kimi is allergic to horses and
cats: “And also to the journalists”, he adds smiling. Well, he also has
the sense of the humour.
A REAL ICEMAN
In addition to his
competing mania, sang froid and self control are innate features of
Raikkonen. Kimi is a real man of ice and really justifies with his
behavior the nickname given by McLaren. The mother Paula Raikkonen
remembers she has seen her son irritable only once. Kimi was six years
old and he went to a normal visit to the doctor’s office. While the
mother and the doctor were speaking, Kimi, in a games corner, began to
distress himself and to get nervous. Immediatly the doctor thought the
child could be affected by disturbs of concentration, even if it was
only about toys. Instead Kimi, who loved riddles very much at those
times, had found a puzzle, suited to his age that seemed him too much
easy, so he wanted another – for children 10-15 aged – that the nurse
did not want to give him. At the end Kimi obtained what he wanted and
fastly put pieces in right place with a happy smile. So the doctor
laughing said: “For sure this boy doesn’t have concentration problems”.
FIRST, THAT WAS A BICYCLE
The Raikkonen family is from the
Carelia: they come from the country of Raikkola, near Sakkijarvi, a
city of ex URSS after the Second World War, while Kimi’s family house
is sited in Karhusuo (Espoo). “Over there, among forests", Kimi’s
father Matti tells. The house had been built by Kimi’s
great-grandfather. His parents Paula and Matti have lived there for
twenty years. The house courtyard was the first track for Rami and
Kimi. The story began from a minicross, a bicycle for children marked
Italietti. “Kimi was three years old and he wasn’t able to drive a
pedal car, but he could ride that Italietti very well”, the father
remembers. “Then when the boys grew, the bicycles would have had to be
changed, but they were too much expensive”. Meanwhile, Kimi and his
brother Rami were competing in everything, sometimes they came to
blows, sometimes they rode their little bicycles raising powder clouds,
all the day.
FROM THE GARDEN OF HOUSE TO THE POTATOES FIELD
of two new bicycles the Räikkönens acquired two Lada, very old russian
cars, models 1200 and 1600. One red, the other green. “Since that
moment our garden have been similar to a potato field. There was a deep
furrow surrounded by a gravel wall, that did not allow to arrive to the
house directly from the road”, remembers the dad. Then the Lada cars
were sold and they acquired a go-kart. The two boys moved some
kilometers from the house courtyard to the famous track of Bemböle,
threatened of closing for ten years, where both Kimi and Keke Rosberg,
JJ Lehto, Mika Salo, Mika Hakkinen began their own career. At Bemböle
the amateurs could run three days a week, time that the Räikkönen
brothers spent integrally. But two racing lovers brothers could not
resist over a long time with only one go-kart: “Rami was too much
higher than Kimi and he had to regulate the pedals at every change of
driver”, dad Matti continues. “As result, boys didn’t time their
laptimes, but the time spent at the box waiting their own turn… So we
also had to buy another car". The family house needed of restructure
works, there wasn’t even the bathroom, but because of boys’ cars, they
had to content theirself with the outside toilet.
MINI RAKET, THE CAREER BEGINS
first Kimi’s contest category was the Mini Raket Karting, in which Kimi
began to run when he was 10 years old, in 1989. In 1991 he arrived
second in the general Class of the Mini Raket Goblet, while first
classified was Toni Vilander. After this contest Räikkönen jumped in
the Formula A 100 cc, where he winned his debut race. “In the lower
classes Kimi was not with the best ones, because there was not money
for new chassis. We only could run. In my opinion a young talented
driver grows better if he has not immediatly the best cars. In those
days fifth place was already a success for us", emphasizes Matti
Räikkönen. In those years Toni Vilander was a hard rival for Räikkönen,
but quickly the two boys learned to appreciate themselves, becoming
friends. “Kimi always has been a positive companion, with a terrible
longing for winning. We left the fights on the tracks and we spent nice
times together. We became friends. Then we made a promise: if one of us
would be arrived in F.1, the other one would have followed him to spur
him", tells Vilander. Who respected his promise. “Also the military
service we made it together: Kimi postponed for a year his coming in
the Armed Forces to wait for me”. Vilander and Räikkönen, together with
Oskari Heikkinen, were the National team of karting.
SCHOOL, WHAT A BORING THING!
have never been a challenge for Räikkönen: he didn’t like studying on
the books. Best day for Kimi was on thursday because the scholastic
program planned two hours of physical activity, two hours of unskilled
labors, peas soup and crêpes for lunch. “Every winter Kimi weared out
two schoolbags, not because of the books inside, but because he handled
them as a sledge when he went home”, the Dad jokes. He was 16 years old
when he stopped the professional school, course for mechanics, and he
HOCKEY, WHAT A PASSION!
Räikkönen always has been
fascinated from all types of sport. He played hockey on ice in the
Espoo Team, the Jupperin Urheilijat. The Matinkylä stadium was sited in
the opposite side of Espoo and as training for the juniores began at 7
o’clock in the morning, Kimi, who certainly is not an early riser, had
to clench his teeth for being of the match. “Once, while I was taking
Kimi to the training, in the rear seat he always repeated me that maybe
it would be better to change sport and playing fencing. For sure
fencers have not to play in the middle of the night. So I brought into
laughter that I was going off the road", Mom Paula tells. “Kimi was the
smallest boy of the team and he was a defending player. If he was not
able to block adversaries with other ways, he throwed to their feet to
trouble the action with obstinacy and toughness. Sometimes the coach
worried about him and didn’t let Kimi playing when the adversaries were
too dangerously sturdy". Now Räikkönen loves hockey on ice: Teemu
Selanne, one of best producers of the Nhl and player of the Anaheim
Ducks, is his friend and at the same time his neighbourg at Porkkala.
Every time he can Räikkönen goes to the training and to the contest of
the Finnish Vip Team of the Oilers of Pietarinkatu, and also to
Kirkkonummi to see amateurs teams. One thing is clear: his taste of the
competition is the same one of when he was a child.