Michael Schumacher will join a growing list of failed sporting comebacks when he retires at the end of this season, but that’s not a list Finnish former world champion Kimi Raikkonen ever feared to be part of when he returned to F1 with Lotus this season.
The 33-year-old Finn replaced Schumacher at Ferrari after the German’s first retirement in 2006 to pursue a career in Superbikes. Raikkonen went on to win the F1 world title immediately after in 2007. But he finished third and sixth in the next two seasons and opted for a break from the sport himself in 2010 to focus on rally driving.
Unlike seven-time world titlist Schumacher, 43, who returned to F1 four years later [to finish: ninth, eighth and so far this season 14th], Raikkonen has surprisingly rediscovered form and sits third in the standings, 67 points off leader Sebastian Vettel.
Schumacher’s comeback fate, like so many others in sport from Evander Holyfield to Michael Jordan, is an indignity Raikkonen told Gulf News he never felt he’d have to suffer, however. “The Iceman”, as he’s affectionately dubbed, even believes he can continue a push to reclaim his crown, despite the time away.
“I think I’ve proven already that I don’t have to worry about that right now [joining the comeback flops],” said Raikkonen. “I try to do better than I did so far and I try to improve all the time. I’ll try to challenge even more than this year and go after it again [next year].
“It’s difficult to challenge now this year. Ferrari and Red Bull have been faster in the last two races and we’re quite far away so its very unlikely. But we will keep trying and if we get a chance we’ll do our best,” said Raikkonen.
“I didn’t feel like I was in retirement I just felt like I was doing a different thing for a few years and enjoying that. Now it’s back to F1 but there’s no pressure,” he added. “I want to do well for myself and so long as I’m happy with how things are going that’s enough for me. There are always people who, whatever you do, you’ll never please them. But I’m not here to try and please them so I don’t have any pressure to do well, I just want to do well for myself.”
“We have the capabilities of doing a good car for next year so I see no reason why we don’t stand a good chance. For sure we know each other better as a team than at the beginning of the season and hopefully that will give us an advantage.”
Asked why he walked away from the sport, after being replaced by Fernando Alonso at Ferrari and turning down offers from Toyota and Renault, Raikkonen said: “There are many reasons for it, simple as that. It’s not one big thing, just certain things. Now that’s in the past and now its just there, a different story.”