Kimi Räikkönen: “I’m here to try to improve things.”

Icon (El pais) July 2019, translation by Whatever

 

Two days prior to our encounter at the Montmeló Circuit, Kimi Räikkönen, the most veteran driver of the actual F1 grid, finished 14th at the Spanish GP.  A step back on a season that started very hopeful.  After his second stint at Ferrari, the 39 year-old Finn has landed at Alfa Romeo – the team that has the Carrera glasses brand as one of their main sponsors – conscious that he was facing a totally different challenge.  The Italian company returns this year to the big competition.  In the season’s first race, in Australia, Kimi gained the first points for Alfa Romeo in 35 years.  “Coming here was my decision, it’s a nice challenge.  I’m here to try to improve things. I like that. If I don’t achieve the goals I want, it’s OK, there’s nothing more I can do”, says the driver in Alfa Romeo’s hospitality on Circuit de Catalunya, where the team, as the others, has stayed a few days longer to do some testing prior to leaving for the next race.  “We have to keep improving.  Last race wasn’t a good one, we were too slow.  I’m still trying to figure out what happened.  But if I don’t find out, it’s ok”, he says.  “We’re going to keep trying to improve and enjoy at the same time.”

There’s something disconcerting and at the same time refreshing about Kimi Räikkönen.  In one universe, the sporting side, marked by efficiency obsessed athletes, sacrifice and messages that seem taken out of self-help books, or by school text books, his relaxed ways in which the Finn lives his profession is totally countercultural.  But Kimi has always been like this.  During a GP, he cut off the radio with his team because he was fed up of being given instructions.  “Just leave me alone, I know what to do”, he told his team members.  Another time, he said that partying actually made him a better driver.  And only a few days after our encounter, he’ll make the news again for cancelling all the celebrations that have been prepared prior to his participation on the Monaco GP, for being his 300th race on Formula 1.  “There’s nothing to celebrate.  Besides, I don’t like Monaco.  It’s not a good GP.  It’s terrible for the mechanics.”

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Kimi has come wearing his driving suit and for a second there, he gave us a smile.  Then he put on his Carrera glasses. And that was it.  After that moment all communication with him has been reduced to indicate, from everything that was being asked of him, what things he wasn’t going to do. “I take races as a challenge.  All the other things that surround this business, I don’t care at all”, informing us what we had already sensed.  “There’s nonsense around all this that bothers me, but at this point, I know I can’t eliminate them so I have to live with them.”  And after 5 minutes sitting down barely moving, he waves his arms like a helicopter, giving us a big scare.  His PR guy, sitting across the room, doesn’t even flinch.  It seems as he can predict when the Iceman will show some humanity.  “Nothing you can do but to learn to live with it.  It always repeats itself:  the same duties, the same people.  I know it by heart.  If you had a good day, it doesn’t bother you too much.  If not, it annoys you and it doesn´t improve your opinions on the things that you already know you don´t like.”

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Räikkönen has this strange ability of being interesting when he talks about the things he doesn’t like.  On the contrary, if you ask him about something he should remember fondly, he sinks even further in his chair and he doesn`t even snuffle because it must make him lazy to exercise expressions.  This is what happened when we asked him about that last race in Brazil, 2007.  When he became World Champion against all odds.  The war between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in McLaren led to an unexpected finish in which the least expected driver ended up winning the title.  “People still ask me about that race… and I like it a bit.  I don’t know what to tell you.  It was very odd. Situation was strange. We knew the car was fast at the end of that season.  We needed a win, or at least a second place.  The rest we couldn’t control.  During the race, a lot happened, but it all turned out fine.  Almost nobody believed it.  Not before, not after.  I think they didn’t even give us a 20% chance of being champions.  In any moment of the GP we talked about this.  When the race ended, we were still making calculations to see if we were champions or not.  Once we knew, it was wonderful, the year ended very well”, he remembers in a monotonous way.  Anyone could think it doesn’t make a difference to him.  We mentioned this to him. “People who say this about me, are the ones who spend their days watching their computers and analyzing God knows what”, he says.  We’re about to laugh, but with Räikkönen it’s a little bit like in The office: you never know if it’s a joke or not.  We shut up.  “Things don’t work like that.  What works for me doesn’t work for another and vice-versa.  If I see a driver does certain things and I want to copy them, it won’t work, we’re different.  You should be happy with yourself.  If someone tells you what to do every day, you’ll end up hating it and the other person too.  I think I’ve always been demanding with myself.  The rest can say whatever they want, but this I know.  Look, I can’t judge if you’re good or bad based on this talk.  Races are important because I dedicate a lot of time to them, but, luckily, I have other things in my life”.

In 2009 Kimi ended his first stint with Ferrari.  The Finn, who had landed in Formula 1 8 years before, skipping most formulae a driver must go through before getting into the mother of all competitions, had announced that the following year he’d be participating in the World Rally Championship.  With Citroën’s backup, he raced for two seasons in that discipline.  “Rallying is complicated”, he explains with a mix of excitement and laziness, a recipe of emotions we believed impossible before meeting him.  “But I needed to try it.  On TV it looks easy, but it turns out being complicated.  You learn a lot.  You can’t put all your focus on driving because you have to listen to the co-driver. In Formula 1, you know where every corner is.  If you get a corner a little bit wrong in one lap, you can get it better next lap.  In rally, if you miss a breaking point, it’s very likely you hit a tree.”  Räikkönen has also tried NASCAR.  And he liked it too.  “I hope to come back someday.  It’s very exciting.  There are cars everywhere.  There is only work on the weekends and there are parties.  I don’t know, I like it.  It was a shame my team had trouble with the payments, I would have liked to stay longer.”

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Days after our encounter, Kimi ended 17th at the Monaco GP.  He had already warned, he didn´t like it.  But in the next races he recovered, even reaching a very good 7th place at the French GP.  There, in the ending stages of the race, he did something that must give him immense satisfaction: to overtake a McLaren.  On that occasion, it was the rookie Lando Norris.  The next day, Kimi participated in a homage to Jackie Stewart and posted on his Instagram a pic of the event, sitting on a low chair almost like in a squat, wearing an old hat like the ones the mythical British driver used to wear all the time.  Norris commented on his post: “For a minute I thought you were driving a tiny car”.  “I thought the same thing about you yesterday…”, responded the Finn.

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Kimi Räikkönen: “So many things have pissed me off!”

source: motorsport-total.com

Kimi Räikkönen in an interview about his ambivalent relationship to racing, alcohol and smoking.

My first 1:1 interview with Kimi Räikkönen was a few years ago. Räikkönen was currently driving for Lotus and had one of those phases in his career when his desire for media appointments and interviews was particularly limited. 15 minutes of conversation were arranged with Lotus press officer Andy Stobart, but already after five minutes the Iceman got up, grumbled a purely rhetorical “Are we done?” and left me quite surprised and disappointed at the table.

Stobart looked at me shrugging his shoulders: “What should I do?”. Kimi Räikkönen, that was my lesson from that encounter, can’t be controlled. He only does what he likes, and he only does it on his own terms. Media work is still an aversion to him today. But since then six years have passed, a marriage and two children have happened – and certain things have changed.

Our interview about “Kimi’s life and Kimi’s book”, the definition of my request to the Alfa Romeo PR team, should have taken place in Baku. But because I had cleverly saved the appointment in my mobile phone in Austria and saved it bound to time zones, I came too late there. I was told it didn’t bother Kimi. He is said to have enjoyed his additional free time very much!

But of course that doesn’t happen a second time. So next try. From an Alfa spokeswoman I get the tip not to start directly into the interview. Kimi doesn’t like that, I get briefed. But I don’t care about that now. Our conversation begins by telling Kimi about our experience back then. Not reproachful, but still quite direct, exactly the way I felt it.

Ice blue eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses …

He has to smile. I’m pretty sure he can’t remember it. Like he generally can’t remember too much from his wild Lotus years. But more about that later. My lead-in breaks the ice a bit. Kimi looks a bit like he’s already had two or three glasses of wine. Which is certainly not the case on media Thursday. He is simply relaxed. Just Iceman.

While I ask my first questions, he lets himself slip casually back into the chair on the upper floor of the Alfa Romeo hospitality. Unfortunately, I can’t see his cool nordic eyes, they are covered by black sunglasses. His arms are crossed behind the chair. The body language signals a little indifference. That’s the way he is, Kimi: He simply doesn’t care. You can like him for it or not.

I wouldn’t want my children to become like him. But apart from that he is one of my favourite persons in the Formula 1 paddock. Kimi is honest, doesn’t play games – and you know where you are with him.

That’s a quality that not many people have in a money-infested sport …

Q: “Kimi, you seem to have become more relaxed with the media lately. One could almost get the impression that you enjoy it more than before.”

Kimi Räikkönen: “Not really. But I have no choice. That’s the problem! I don’t have much to say. But it’s part of my job.”

Q: “Has your approach to interviews like this changed?

Räikkönen: “I see it more or less the same way as before. It’s still the same people who work as journalists in Formula 1 and mostly ask the same questions. That hasn’t changed much over the years. There are so many stories that you are asked about. The journalists write these stories themselves and then ask our opinion.”

Kimi & rallying: Why did he leave?

Q: “You always say that you enjoy driving, but not the PR and media work. You had that when you drove rallies…”

Räikkönen: “Right. Especially in the second year, when it was clear what I’d do – whether I’d keep driving rally or do nothing. I was very happy in many ways!”

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When “or do nothing” comes over his lips Kimi has to grin broadly for the first time. The atmosphere is good in the first minutes of our interview, the chemistry fits, the ice is broken. And the 39-year-old lets me feel that interviews are actually an unbearable thing for him, but that he finds this somewhat bearable. This is probably due to the fact that I don’t formulate my questions conventionally, but try to make a conversation between two people.

One thing I have always asked myself: when Kimi drove rally in 2010 and 2011, he actually had a good life. Although he was the superstar of the scene in the WRC, after the initial hype had subsided he was largely left alone by the journalists and camera teams. And although he claimed not to be interested in all this crap, he returned to Lotus in Formula 1 in 2012 …

Q: “Then why did you decide to leave rallying and return to Formula 1? You had what you wanted.”

Räikkönen: “I tried a bit of NASCAR. What I liked about it was the racing. Rally is not racing in the classic sense. In rallying you don’t have a direct opponent, you drive against the stopwatch. When I drove the Nationwide and Truck races in NASCAR, I noticed how much I enjoy the direct duel against other drivers. I thought to myself: ‘Maybe it’d be nice to have that again more often’. And Formula 1 is the top class in the eyes of most racing drivers. So I wanted to know if it would work out again.”

Kimi: Nothing good comes without something bad

Q: “But you could have driven EuroNASCAR, or in another racing series with less media coverage, if you were only interested in racing itself. Or was the challenge of Formula 1 so important to you?”

Räikkönen: “Yes. Racing, driving in Formula 1, that’s fun for me. No matter what you do, there will always be something positive and something negative. You can’t just have the positive, no matter what racing series you’re in. And elsewhere it’s not the interviews, but other things that you don’t like. This probably applies to all areas of life, that there is always something positive and something negative. It’s difficult to find something perfect that has nothing wrong with it. Let’s take the next holiday, for example: once you’re there, it might be beautiful. But the journey is annoying.”

Q: “Let’s talk about your book. Have you read it?”

Räikkönen: “Yes. Normally I don’t read books. It’s too much like school for me. At school I had to read a few books, but I don’t think I finished reading a single one! That was too boring for me. Not necessarily because of the books themselves – but I couldn’t be bothered to read. On the day of publication there was a small lounge event, and the evening before I read it. I roughly knew what it would contain because I had printed and read individual sections. But that was the first time I had the whole book in front of me, the way it was supposed to look. Then I read it.”

Kimi’s Book: No taboos for the author

Q: “Was there also a topic that you discussed with the author, where you said to him: ‘But we’re not going to publish that!’ Or was there no such thing?
Räikkönen: “Not really. Maybe a little thing, but not really. It wasn’t like I was trying to hide anything. Of course, there would have been lots of stories that could have been written in. But a book like that has X pages. You can’t put everything in there, or it’ll get too thick. And I never wanted to have a scandal book in which it was told that this and that happened so and so. There wasn’t actually any topic on which I said: ‘This can’t go in like that’. There was no such thing. I was very open.”

Q: “There was one chapter that I found very entertaining – and to be honest it reminded me a bit of my own wilder days. It is the chapter ‘Sixteen Days’. It describes how you were drunk non-stop between Bahrain and Barcelona in 2013. How could you even remember it?”

Räikkönen: “I couldn’t even. Half of it other people had to tell me. We just toured across Europe and had a bit of fun. It wasn’t the first time. And it was quite normal for us.”

Q: “I think that’s what people love about you: that you just don’t give a shit! Maybe someone else would have said: ‘We’re not putting that in the book.'”

Räikkönen: “But there’s nothing wrong with that. Where is that a bad story? There’s nothing bad in it. That was quite normal, and it happened many times. The chapter in the book is not the only time I’ve done something like this. I had fun”.

Q: “You are married now and you have two children. I guess that kind of fun has changed in your life.”

Räikkönen: “Sure. Now there are other priorities. At that time I had my work, but otherwise … If I wanted to fly somewhere, I just flew there. I didn’t have to ask anyone. I was old enough to do what I wanted.”

Family and children today more important than any parties

“When you have a family, it changes. I want to be with my children. I’m already away from home a lot with racing anyway. I enjoy the time with my family. Sometimes I still go out with my wife. But that’s something completely different. We’re all getting older, aren’t we? And after 16 drunken days I don’t feel as good today as I used to. There are other things in life that are important to me today. That doesn’t mean that I can’t go out anymore. Of course I can! But my time with the children and the family is more important to me”.

Q: “When you say that you still sometimes have a blast today: One such evening must have been the FIA Gala 2018 in Saint Petersburg. I must say, this was the most entertaining FIA gala in years!”

Räikkönen: “You see! It’s so damn boring, it’s better to get drunk. Maybe they invited me especially to provide the entertainment!”

Q: “It was really funny to watch. And I have to say I’m impressed by how relaxed your wife put it away. If I staggered on a stage like that, my girlfriend would be pissed off…”

Räikkönen: “Yes, all easy. She has already experienced a lot with me!”

Q: “Did you have any calls from angry FIA officials after that?”

Räikköenen: “Nothing. Not one call. Why even? Why should they be angry? The bottom line is: They invited me. So it’s not my fault! And nothing bad happened.”

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I would also like to address another issue that is unfortunately ignored in the Kimi book: Kimi and the cigarette smoke. Someone who should know told me that Kimi drank and smoked in many Lotus meetings in summer 2013. The team owed him money, and so he didn’t take his exemplary behaviour too seriously …

Open secret: Kimi and the cigarette smoke

Q: “There is a paddock legend from the time when you drank even more. It is said that you smoked in Lotus meetings back then. Is that true?”

Räikkönen: “I don’t know if that was really in meetings. I wouldn’t say meetings to that. I’m not quite sure – maybe so. I smoked when I was younger. It’s been a long time ago.”

Q: “Did you quit completely?

Räikkönen: “I don’t even remember the last time I smoked. In the book I also think it says that I smoked and then quit. But to come back to the question: As I said, I’m not sure. But I don’t think I smoked in meetings. In the motorhome, however, I’m quite sure, on the terrace. Sometimes with my boss!

Q: “That didn’t bother him?”

Räikkönen: “Obviously not. I think once was after Abu Dhabi – I remember that. That was absolutely never a problem. At least he never said anything to me!

Q: “There’s a lot of talk about Lewis Hamilton’s lifestyle. Didn’t you ever feel that stopping drinking and smoking could improve your performance?”

Räikkönen: “No, not really. Maybe it even made me better to live the way I wanted to. If you’re the type to read books, you should read books. Whatever suits you. The most important thing is that you know for yourself what is best for you. If you are urged to do something that any other driver is doing for whom things are going well, it won’t work. You know best what’s good for you. Everyone has their own methods. That’s the most important thing. No matter what it is. I’m sure everyone lives their lives a little differently. I think the older you get, the better you get to know yourself and find out what is good for you and what is not. And then it has to be fun. If someone tells you all the time to do this and that which you don’t enjoy, it won’t do you any good in the long run”.

Q: “Would you say you’re a more balanced character today than you were ten years ago?

Räikkönen: “Hm. In many ways yes. But my life has also changed a lot. I have a family now. Nothing stresses me so easily anymore. My life is certainly more fulfilled today than it used to be. There are other things that are important now. More important things.

Ferrari & McLaren: Two things that are missing in the book

Q: “There are a few things I missed badly in the book. For example the return to Ferrari. They had paid you a pile of money at the end of 2009 to stop you driving for Ferrari. And then you come back. It was difficult to understand from the outside because we assumed that relationships were broken. What was it like to return to Ferrari and who was the first to approach you?”

Räikkönen: ” They approached me. That was when I was driving for Lotus. I never had a problem with Ferrari. I still had a contract in 2009, but so many things just pissed me off, also in Formula 1 as a whole. So we ended it. They wanted something different in the team. We found a solution – but I never had a problem with anyone from Ferrari. We had, admittedly, discussions with one or two people there. But we spoke that out. I never had the feeling that I had been treated unfairly. People write something all the time. The truth is: I didn’t even care much about all the contract stories back then. I just wanted to do something other than Formula 1. I still had friends at Ferrari and we started talking at some point. So one thing came after another.”

 

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Even before the interview it was clear to me that the 15 agreed minutes would not be enough to work through my questions completely. We’re just one-third through when the Alfa press officer taps his wristwatch for the first time. Secretly I had hoped to stretch the time a bit, because Kimi seems to have taken a liking to our conversation. But unfortunately a TV team is already waiting behind us. So we have to at least touch on the very last important topic …

Q: “The other thing I missed in the book is your relationship with Ron Dennis. He invented the nickname Iceman. But over the years your relationship has cooled down, hasn’t it?”

Räikkönen: “I wouldn’t say it like that. Our relationship didn’t break down. I still talk to him today when I see him. I never had a personal problem with him. It’s true that we argued about certain things. What to do, what not to do, and so on. But that never affected our personal relationship. Sure, he was angry sometimes, and I was angry sometimes because I should have accepted this and that.”

Q: “You’ve managed to separate the professional from the personal.”

Räikkönen: “Yes. There was never a problem between us. We were just arguing about something, and next time we talked normally again. It never became personal. Surely he didn’t agree with how I lived my life. But it didn’t suit me either that he wanted to interfere in my life. I have no problem talking to Ron. A few years ago we met and talked a bit. I think he’s a good guy. It was really all about interfering. But it was never personal. I had a great time with McLaren. There were discussions from time to time that made me angry. But that’s normal.”

 

For Kimi’s analysis of his past in Formula 1, his team changes, his personal relationships with bosses and team mates, there is unfortunately no time left. We shake hands at the end of the interview, I thank him and assure him that his honest answers will not be used for a moral condemnation. Kimi smiles. I have the impression that it was also one of the less bad interviews for him.

 

The Ice Law

Ice Law is the literal translation but it’s a wordplay as it actually means silent treatment. Big thanks to Gina for helping with the translation of the article!

Life and Style Magazine – July/August 2019

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The last great driver
The legendary Finnish “Iceman” and his view on modern motorsport

 

Kimi Räikkönen, star of the Carrera sponsored Alfa Romeo Racing team, is the latest representative of a lineage of endangered Formula 1 drivers.

 

It hasn’t been a good weekend for Kimi Räikkönen. The Spanish Grand Prix was the first of this Formula 1 season in which the Finnish driver was outside the top ten positions and therefore, the points. It wasn’t the best news for him or his new team, Alfa Romeo Racing, and we had no idea how it might affect our interview. After all, it’s the Iceman we’re talking about. Arctic eyes, monosyllabic answers and an unalterable expression were the adjectives that preceded him. Expectations had never been the best. But to be honest, that only increased the excitement of being face to face with a legend of his size. With five Formula 1 teams under his belt between 2001 and 2019, from Sauber to McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus and back in Ferrari; two seasons in the World Rally Championship; a year in a NASCAR car; countless hockey games, and hundreds of days of skiing and snowboarding, Kimi represents first and foremost a taste for speed and danger. The original version of the racing driver is closer to that of the unwary hero than to that of the professional sportsman. Not for nothing does he belong to a lineage of drivers who learned to drive through icy roads during Finland’s long winters. A clan that Kimi presides since his victory at the U.S. Grand Prix in October 2018. That day, at 39 years old, he became the Finn with the most first places in Formula 1 history, with 21, ahead of his compatriots Mika Häkkinen, Valtteri Bottas and Keke Rosberg. As one of those life coincidences, it occurred on the eleventh anniversary of his world championship title, which he achieved in 2007, during his first stage with Ferrari. Räikkönen has always preferred to race rather than talk. Living rather than theorizing. Extremely talented, like James Hunt, but less dedicated than Ayrton Senna and not as technical or perfectionist as Michael Schumacher, his youth was full of beautiful polemics related to excesses. How can we forget that time when he fell asleep outside a bar in Spain, embracing an inflatable dolphin? For him, “partying and competing was the norm,” he once said. “As long as I do my job and the team has no reason to complain, don’t worry about my private life.  And he was right. Perhaps his best years were those in which his indomitable spirit was in control. Or maybe not. When we arrived at the space set up by Alfa Romeo Racing at the Montmeló circuit, we were given the good news. The photo shoots and interviews had been faster than expected, which always puts someone like him in a good mood. Encouraged by the fact that things were going like this, we went over the questions and prepared the lights and the shots. It wasn’t going to be an easy talk, although playing in our favour, Kimi is no longer that young man who is extremely distrustful of the media. He is also the face of the new Carrera lens campaign, so he felt comfortable in front of the camera. He is still one of the best drivers in the championship and deserves the Iceman title, but now with the weight of experience and two kids on his shoulders.

How’s the day going?

Good. It’s not the funniest day I’ve ever had, but it’s okay.

What would you rather be doing?

Other than racing? Being at home with my kids.

I can imagine. Well, if it’s ok with you, let’s just talk a little Formula 1 then.

[Nods.]

After 18 years as a driver, I imagine the way you face both the good times and the bad has changed.

I don’t think so. I’d say it’s always been the same for me. You have to accept that in this sport there will be good days and bad days. Although it’s disappointing when something goes wrong, you have to get rid of that feeling quickly to concentrate on what follows. That’s why I don’t worry too much about the bad times, I don’t overthink it when I get home.

What is your main concern at this time of year?

Nothing at all. Obviously last weekend was difficult for us, we lost a bit of speed, but now we have the opportunity to test the car and try to learn from what happened. So concerns, no. What you want is to improve and do things a little better, of course, but even about that, the truth is that I feel relatively confident, although improving has been quite complicated in the last two races [Azerbaijan and Spain].

What’s your first car-related memory?

I guess from when I was very young; my mother and father had cars, of course. I learned to drive when I was only nine, at home. My father used to let me drive from time to time when we went through our land, we used to use old cars. It was him who gradually taught me how to control the car, especially during summers.

When did you know you liked speed?

Maybe in a go-kart, when I started racing with them between the ages of seven and eight. I had done motocross before but I think it was at that age, with the go-karts, that I knew I liked it.

Is there anything you do every day no matter where you are?

Sleep [laughs]. Although I can’t always do it as much as I’d like. On race weekends I always follow the same schedule. So I always do a little bit of the same, no matter what country I’m in. My days are very similar.

Do you believe in good luck rituals?

No. In fact, I don’t think good or bad luck exists. I believe in doing things right. Especially in the racing world, where the things that happen don’t have much to do with luck, but with work.

I read that you like snowboarding…

Yes, I loved it, although I haven’t practiced it in years. Now my knees would hurt and you know, it’s not the same to do it when I’m young as when I’m almost 40. It’s risky. If I have free time I prefer to do motocross. I even stopped skiing a couple of years ago.

Do you like the mountains then? Or has it always been about speed?

No, in Finland we don’t have high mountains, what I’ve always liked about those sports is the speed.

Do you care about fashion?

Not at all. My wife is the one who’s interested. I’m one of those who wear the first thing they grab. I care about comfort. One of the things I like about race weekends is that it’s very easy to choose what to wear [smiles]. The uniform is always the same.

Is it possible to enjoy a Grand Prix and not actually win?

Yes, I mean, if you like this sport. Obviously part of the challenge is to do well and a good weekend is more enjoyable than a bad one, it’s more fun. But it’s not always possible to win and if you’re going to do this you have to know. I enjoy driving above all else.

What do you like most about that kind of racing?

Finding someone to fight with on the circuit, someone to fight a challenging battle with, someone to force me to do my best.

Do you think Formula 1 is less exciting now than it was years ago?

Honestly, I don’t think it’s changed that much. It’s always been hard to avoid people complaining, no matter what change is made to the safety rules or regulations. There have always been circuits that allow you to offer more spectacle than others or drive better than others. It has always been like that and it always will be, you cannot run the same way in all. There are places, such as Spa-Francorchamps, that make it easier for drivers to follow and get ahead, but, for example, here in Spain it’s more difficult. In Monaco, on the other hand, you’ll see more action. These are things that have always happened, it depends on the nature of the circuit. When I started it was the same thing.

Do you really think that is a complaint that has been constant, always with the same force?

Yes, although it is true that with the cars we have now it’s a problem that is going to be difficult to avoid because the braking distance is very short, it’s difficult to follow. If you took off the wings things would change a lot… I don’t know, there was a time, many years ago, when it was different. But back then it was a different sport.

What about the driver’s lifestyle? Has it changed in the last 20 years?

I don’t know what to tell you. When I started there were more tests and we were busier than now, I think, because after each race we did tests for two or three days. There was a little more work in that direction. But, in general, not much has changed; except for a few things in qualifying, the race weekends are still more or less the same.

Do you see anything different in the new drivers?

That they start younger. I started at 21 and, if you compare the average age at which you started in my time with now, it’s certainly gone down. But it’s a general dynamic in all elite sports. Whether it’s football or hockey, people start getting professional sooner. In fact, I’d say it’s something that happens in almost every field in life today.

Did you enjoy your years as a rally driver?

A lot, but they weren’t easy. It’s a very different sport from this one. You face very different things: snow, storms… In a single race you fight against several conditions, even in a single stage you can find multiple adversities. I think that’s why it’s a sport with such a different atmosphere, because you spend many hours in a car. What is hard is not the driving, but the long days you have to overcome. It can take up to 14 hours to get out of the car on the days when you have to do the reconnaissance and take notes. Also, a Grand Prix is a weekend, while a rally can last much longer. That makes it a completely different challenge, competing for a week, instead of a couple of days, changes everything.

They are very mental tests.

It’s a completely different mental game and that had a very pronounced effect on me, because for me it was something new. But I tell you that I enjoyed it a lot, I like challenges and difficulties and see how I react to them. Another thing that seemed special to me was the fact that I wasn’t running against the other drivers, but against time. It’s another reason why I think the rally world tends to have a friendlier atmosphere.

What would you think if your son wants to be a driver?

I don’t know if he’s going to be or not, but whatever he decides, whether he’s a driver or a dancer, we’re going to support him one hundred percent. It’s true that he’s interested in cars and motorcycles, but we’ll see if it stays that way. This summer we will try with the karts to see what happens. With children you never know.

Do you have an idol you’d like to have dinner with? Dead or alive, it doesn’t matter.

I don’t, actually. When I was young and became interested in Formula 1, I paid a lot of attention to the Finnish drivers of the time, but there was never anyone I followed with special attention or who cared more about than the rest. Besides, in general I don’t like to go out to dinner [laughs]. I prefer to stay at home.

It’s very important for you to be home…

It’s what I value most, being at home with my family and having a normal life. I’ve been traveling for years and I spend a lot of time away, that’s why the real vacations for me are being at home or close to home, not on another trip.

What do you like to do at home?

Whatever the kids want to do.

Pixar movies?

No, no, we try to go out and spend time outdoors. It’s the best thing for them.

What do you think about the relationship between media and motorsports?

That there’s more gossip than when I started. Or maybe there were back then, but the internet wasn’t what it is now. Suddenly, everything you do or say ends there right away. So people take advantage of that to tell stories and it doesn’t matter if they’re true or not. They try to sell their product and they know that morbid headlines attract more than those that aren’t. Although I have to tell you that sometimes it’s the headline that seems crazy to me, because then you read the note and the story can be much more normal; it’s like they’re two different things. It happens with all the information we receive today. And it’s a shame, because that makes you have to be very careful when you talk, because you know they’re almost always going to try to use your words to make a scandalous headline. Luckily, there are a lot of decent people who are in this from the beginning, telling the stories that matter, the true stories. But I insist, I think it’s something that surrounds us in all facets of life. Wherever you go, people take pictures and have the possibility to make a normal thing seem strange. I don’t know… I don’t care what is written or said. I know what the truth is.

Double Interview with Räikkönen and Giovinazzi

Kimi Räikkönen talks and laughs and talks. And laughs again. motorprofis.at experienced the most talkative and analytical Iceman of all times in a double interview with his Alfa Romeo team mate Antonio Giovinazzi. It’s exciting what the two of them have to say to each other and to us.

Source: motorprofis.at    Pictures: Alfa Romeo Racing, Gerald Enzinger

In the end Spielberg was worth a trip for everyone: for the Alfa Romeo Racing drivers Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi because they both scored with a 9th (Kimi) and 10th (Giovinazzi) place – in the case of the Italian for the first time in his career. And for the selected journalists, who were invited to the roundtable with the two, even more so: in this interview session one experienced a brillantly cheerful and talkative Räikkönen. And first impressions of Giovinazzi, who once drove at eye level with Verstappen, Ocon and Auer in Formula 3.

Your team has always been known for its ability to work well with young people – as was the case with you, Kimi. What are your memories of your beginnings in Formula 1?

RÄIKKÖNEN: I wasn’t as young as others, I was 21, but I was still very inexperienced. I came straight from Formula Renault (which was the 4th level at the time, note), but it was of course a completely different world than the one I was familiar with. When I first drove a Formula 1 car it was – I wouldn’t say it was a shock now – but it was definitely anything else I had known up to that point. But the first day went by fast and then with every day it became easier and more normal in all areas.

How has Formula 1 changed in all these years?

RÄIKKÖNEN: In essence, it’s still the same. Over all these years the cars have changed a bit, the driving as such, the rules. But in principle, we as drivers still do the same thing as we did back then. Maybe now we do more PR work and sit more in meetings.

What is your goal for the rest of the season?

RÄIKKÖNEN: Hopefully we can fight regularly for the top 10 places and points. You don’t really have concrete goals, it’s just that you should always improve your car step by step. And if that works, then we can be in a good position – after a long way.

Question to both of you: As boring as Formula 1 usually seems to be, it must be fun to fight in midfield, where things are very tight and you have a lot of battles in every race.

RÄIKKÖNEN: Everyone tells me all the time: the races are so boring. But I think if you’re in the middle of it, it’s not boring. On some days you’re just defending, then there are phases where it’s always about attacking. From the outside it looks more boring than in the car, where things can get very hectic in the midfield. In this area it’s so tight, you might even see better racing than at the front.

GIOVINAZZI: I fully agree. It’s so close. In this area of the race you’re on the offensive and defensive at the same time, and your race goes both forward and backward. You have to have both in mind. But that makes pure racing more fun here. Honestly: it’s hard.

Kimi, your memories of the A1 Ring and the first years of the Red Bull Ring now?

RÄIKKÖNEN: I’ve always enjoyed being here – and it was a shame we lost this track for so many years. I think 2003 was the race back then. I have many positive memories. Fortunately, I’m old enough to have gotten to know some old race tracks – like the old Hockenheimring when it still had its long straights. Many tracks that are fun in their own way – Spa with the bus stop chicane, Hungary.

In Spielberg there are great sections, even if some things have changed in small details. But the first turn or the last two, they are a lot of fun. It’s always a great place to come here. And it’s probably also because of the whole scenery with all the mountains that the atmosphere here is always so relaxed. It’s a shame that we once didn’t have the track on the calendar – but it’s great that they got it back.

I think that you would have loved the old Österreichring with its long Flatschach straight, in whose braking zone, as Gerhard Berger puts it, you always looked death in the eye.

RÄIKKÖNEN: Yes, definitely! Everything I’ve seen about it looks pretty exciting. And of course there would be really good overtaking manoeuvres on such tracks. There are a lot of good corners where you can do something while braking. That’s the kind of track we want.

Antonio, what are your memories of the Red Bull Ring?

GIOVINAZZI: It’s certainly one of my favourite tracks and I have good memories of this place as well. Here I won my first race in Formula 3 and had a very good weekend in Formula 2. There are many high-speed corners. It’s not a long track, it’s more of a kart track. That’s why there are often good races. Here in Formula 1 we have three DRS zones, so a lot of action is possible. That fits well!

Kimi, you as a racer: What do you want from the Formula 1 of the future?

RÄIKKÖNEN: Holidays! (laughs).

In the long run, doesn’t concern me what’s going to happen. If I have no interest, I will definitely not turn on the TV and let myself be disturbed in my free time (laughs again).

But if you ask me, I’m sure I’d change a lot. For instance, remove all these data analyses if possible. If you wouldn’t setup the cars based on so much data, it would depend more on the feeling and certain qualities could make the difference.

What’s more fun: driving a Formula 1 car or a rally car?

RÄIKKÖNEN: Rally is so completely different. You’re not really driving against each other, but against time. If you see another car on the special stages during the rally, then something just went damn wrong for one of you. (grins)

But if you compare: I drove NASCAR once, you were allowed to use telemetry data during testing, but not during the race. That’s why you have to make your own experiences at a certain point. This makes oval races seem very simple, but in reality they are far away from simplicity. It’s a highly complex thing. That’s more pure racing. If you realize: Shit, I’m not fast enough – then you can talk to others. Then one person tells you that, and the other means that. In the end you have to draw your own conclusions. In Formula 1, on the other hand, the data is there and they tell you everything that needs to be changed. If you have to find your own setup and can’t look at the computer during set up, then that would be a completely different feeling.

Antonio, does Kimi help you, can you learn from him?

GIOVINAZZI: It’s like Kimi just said: Even if he wouldn’t tell me or if I don’t ask him, I can see all his data and draw my conclusions. There are no real secrets in the team when it comes to voting.

RÄIKKÖNEN: Now imagine how difficult it would be for you if you didn’t have access to my data. That would make a massive difference.

GIOVINAZZI: Yes, I agree. Without data it would be difficult – especially for me as a very young driver in the first season, who of course benefits from having such an exceptionally experienced teammate. That would be hard, but I’m lucky to be able to look at everything. And so it’s easier to improve session by session.

There are quite revolutionary ideas in the DTM: For example, that you can’t preheat the tyres or that radio communication is now very limited: Would such rules also be good for Formula 1?

RÄIKKÖNEN: Originally there was also a radio ban in Formula 1, for example in the warm-up lap. I’m that guy who doesn’t mind if nobody talks. (grins mischievously)

In other teams it is often the case that someone says that this driver is faster here or slower there. But what difference does it make? For me this information is no help. I think: if you ban radio, it won’t really change the races.

And as for your tyre question: If it’s as hot as in Spielberg, we’ll bring the tyres up to temperature even after a few laps, even without blankets. But if it’s cold, we’d drive like on ice without heating up. We would have zero grip, especially in the morning sessions. We would even fly off on the straight because we would have so little grip.

So if you ban the heating blankets, you would have to change the tyres completely at the same time. If the tyres are designed in such a way that they have to work without heated blankets – then it’s fine. But there are no plans. And it won’t change the game.

You’re a fan favourite, a real hero. What does that mean to you?

RÄIKKÖNEN: Yeah, that’s clearly a nice thing. It’s nice when they cheer for you! So some seem to like what I’m doing. Or maybe I’m just old and that makes them sentimental. (smiles)

Antonio, for you as an Italian, the day Kimi won Ferrari’s last World Championship title in 2007 must have been something very special. What are your memories like?

GIOVINAZZI: Of course I was a Ferrari fan! I saw the race at home on TV. And it was also special as three different pilots could still become World Champion – Alonso, Hamilton and Kimi.

RÄIKKÖNEN: (interrupts) But I strongly hope that you cheered me on.

GIOVINAZZI: Uh, sure. I made the point difference. (laughs)

RÄIKKÖNEN: How old were you back then?

GIOVINAZZI: 14! No – 12. I was driving a mini kart.

You are now factory drivers of Alfa Romeo, a big brand in motorsport. What do you associate with this name?

RÄIKKÖNEN: I’m too young to have experienced Alfa in Formula 1. But I know that they have a great history in this sport. They have won races, world championships. I think it’s great that they’re back in Formula 1.

Who was the last winner with an Alfa engine?

GIOVINAZZI: (answers immediately). Niki Lauda! (Note: Right, Anderstorp 1978, Brabham-Alfa.)

Privately you also drive Alfa: Kimi a Stelvio, Antonio a Giulia. Right?

RÄIKKÖNEN: Yes, in the Quadrifoglio version. It’s good for Switzerland and with the family. It’s fun.

GIOVINAZZI: The Giulia is a well-done car. I always enjoy driving it.

What is the biggest difference between a big team like Ferrari and a smaller one like Alfa, Kimi? My feeling tells me that this is a family size that you really like.

RÄIKKÖNEN: The pure work is not really different. The driving, the workflow, the meetings, it’s all very similar. The big difference is the stuff around it, I have less to do here. That was one reason why I wanted to do it that way.

But the passion, it’s the same, and usually the cars are very good. Only if you have a problem with the car it can take longer to fix it here – in such a case the size of the staff and the budget does make a difference.

What do you feel today when you are in Maranello?

RÄIKKÖNEN: I had good times there, even if the results weren’t always. But Ferrari is a big part of my heart, of my life. Not many can claim to have driven for this team and have won a drivers world championship title and the constructors’ championship twice. That connects and I still have contact with the people there. Of course.

How was it in 2007? The day on which you became world champion – and little Giovinazzi was excited in front of the TV?

RÄIKKÖNEN: Our only chance in the races was to be in the top two and then look: what are the McLaren doing? We had a lot of speed, but the World Championship was no longer in our hands. We had to bring our cars to 1 and 2. It worked. But it wasn’t just this one race. We had a phase of the season where we were struggling, but then we were really good.

Can Vettel still fight for the championship this year?

RÄIKKÖNEN: He can fight. Can he also win? That’s something different. He’s not in an easy position, but things often change fast. They will fight to the end.

GIOVINAZZI: I agree. Giving up is not an option for a team like Ferrari.

Kimi Raikkonen: “Then they should burn the book.”

source: Speedweek

Kimi, you have published a book that has become a bestseller in Finland. Has thus  the opinion of the fans at home changed?

It’s hard to say because I only spend an average of three weeks a year in Finland. Our home is Switzerland. When I travel to Finland, it’s to our summer house, which is very remote. But what I noticed in Switzerland: more people come and politely ask for an autograph. I guess that’s because I’m driving for a Swiss team again.

Do you feel a bit Swiss after such a long time?

No, but I’ve been living in Switzerland since 2001, it’s more my home than Finland. We feel very much at home in Switzerland. I don’t care what the Finnish fans think of the Formula 1 drivers. I even think they’re more critical of local drivers than of foreign drivers. I guess that’s because they’re angry because we don’t do anything special for them.

Does it mean anything to you that you wrote a bestseller?

No, that was never the goal. I just wanted to tell things the way I experienced them. Of course I hear about the sales numbers, little by little the book came onto the market in different languages. But I don’t ask how sales are going. If people like the book, I’m happy about it. If they don’t like it, let them burn it and at least use it as a heat source.

Do your children actually speak Finnish?

Finnish and English. Our daughter becomes two, she only speaks a few words. Robin probably speaks better English than Finnish. He’s in kindergarten now, but it’s an English-speaking kindergarten. I think we will stay in Switzerland and when he comes to school, it will be an international school. He will also learn German or Swiss German like that, when they are so small, they will learn it in no time at all. I think it’s good when the children grow up multilingual, it’s much easier than learning a language later.

What is Robin enthusiastic about?

Motocross. He likes cars, but I think he prefers bikes. But nobody knows yet where the journey is going. One day the kids like this, the next day something completely different, it changes all the time. Maybe this summer I’ll put him in a go-kart. At this age everything is just a game. If it doesn’t become racing, it doesn’t matter.

How will you react if he wants to pursue a racing career?

Then that’s okay, too. We will support whatever they want to do. For my part, they can also become dancers. It is only important to me that they enjoy what they do. I want them to do something meaningful that fulfills them. I don’t want them hanging around train stations doing stupid things. Then I prefer them to stay at home and play computer games.

Kimi Räikkönen & Frédéric Vasseur “We are on the same wavelength”

source: Autohebdo Nr 2204, 21. February 2019

The Hinwil team, which has made authenticity its trademark over the years, is definitely protected from false pretences. Tenors of straight talking, Fred the boss and Kimi the champion lift the veil on their nascent relationship and assert their truths. It’s sometimes brutal, often funny and always moving. Dialogue of racers.

Did you know each other before you started working together?

Frédéric Vasseur: To my knowledge, no.

Kimi Räikkönen: Neither to mine. We must have said “hello” to each other in the paddock when we met, but it never went any further.

So, what did you talk about when you first met?

FV: Racing! Not very original, but we had to start somewhere.

KR: It was the day after Monza, if I remember correctly.

FV: He’s good. I went to your place in the afternoon and we let go for four hours.

KR: It’s all been done! Ferrari, Sauber, etc. We’ve done the world of F1 again!

FV: We didn’t even talk about the contract, just cars.

KR: That’s why you came back on Thursday.

FV: Yes, we shook hands and that was it.

Kimi, did Fred ask you what Sauber looked like in 2001?

KR: I think we talked about that, but the problem is that I don’t really remember myself what it was like. The part where we are now existed, that’s for sure. There was this L shape, but it was much smaller. The first time I came to meet Peter Sauber was in this building, but downstairs. Now, the management has gone higher up…

What were you doing in 2001, Fred? Did the names Sauber, Räikkönen mean anything to you?

FV: What is certain is that I didn’t have to focus on what Sauber could look like. In 2001, I was doing F3, but that was before the Euroseries….

You were already taking care of young drivers, you couldn’t help to be interested in this young Finnish guy who had just jumped from the tub of a Formula Renault to that of an F1…

FV: I remember a Finn in Spa in a FR 2.0, but I don’t really know if it was Kimi or Bottas a little later…

KR: Well, it must have been me since I took part in a European round at Spa in 2000!

FV: It must have been you, then! I was in F3 and I thought he was sending some heavy stuff, this kid.

KR: And how, I even won! It was just after my first test in an F1 car which I had done in Mugello. I had a hard time in the first few laps. I felt like I was being arrested. At the top of Raidillon, I was completely composed. It took me all day to find my benchmarks.

Kimi, if I say “art grand prix”, does that mean anything to you?

KR: I knew it was a racing team, but when you get into your F1 business, you don’t see anything else.

FV: You didn’t care, eh! (laughs)

KR: Yeah, but I also knew that Todt was involved. In the end I knew a lot about it (laughs). I even had to go under your awning to greet a fellow Finn.

FV: Kovalainen!

KR: Exactly!

Fred, what did you do to break the ice with the Iceman?

FV: First of all, I didn’t have to take a peak (laughs)! We talked about the thing we had in common: a passion for racing. We connected quickly. It was relaxed.

Kimi, did Fred find the right words to make you melt?

KR: Well, it looks like he did because I felt comfortable right away. Talking with Fred was like talking to an old friend. I appreciated the directness, frankness. I don’t like people who talk for nothing.

We haven’t talked much about our lives so far, more racing but it’s kind of like we’ve always known each other. We still have some way to go towards each other but the main thing is already there. On the work side, there’s not much to say, just look at what he has achieved in a little more than one season. It was the basis of our discussions, and facilitated my decision to come.

We recruited a lot last year.. We need to stabilize the system a little bit and Kimi will be the leader we expected

We recruited a lot last year.. We need to stabilize the system a little bit and Kimi will be the leader we expected

Fred, going from a rookie like Charles Leclerc to an experienced driver like Kimi, does it require a review of the approach?

FV: Last year, we had a rookie and a rather experienced pilot in the person of Marcus Ericsson. This year, all things considered, we have the same situation with Kimi and her huge experience on the one hand, and Antonio (Giovinazzi ed.) on the other hand, who is however a little more experienced than Charles was at the same time, a year ago. They’re a good pair, well balanced. It is very important to have someone like Kimi with us, because the team is very young despite its years of presence in F1. We recruited a lot last year, about sixty people. We need to stabilize the system a little bit and Kimi will be the leader we expected. At this stage of our growth, it is a huge plus to have the support of a driver like him.

Kimi, what do you expect from your return to Hinwil? Start up again? Find a welcoming place to finish your career? Find your youth again?

KR: None of this. Working as hard as possible and see what we get. I don’t have any quantified objectives in mind, I’ve never had any. I am not approaching 2019 in a different way than 2018 because I am moving from Maranello to Hinwil. We do our best and we see what we get, I have always had this approach. Even in karting. I have no other way of thinking. There is a good group of people here and if we do a good job, the results will follow. Will we be good? How long will it take to be in on it? No one knows and it’s like that every year. At Ferrari or here.

FV: The only certainty is that we are not going to be world champions. But for the rest…

What do you expect from Fred? If you are expecting something….

KR: We’re just starting to work together, and I’m going to need some races before I can expect anything at all. Nevertheless, if he can keep us concentrated and if he can protect us from all the nonsense that politics generates in the teams, it will already be a good start. That’s what I hope and that’s what I’m sure I’ll get with someone like him. I wouldn’t have come if I didn’t feel the guy. So, of course, I expect him to handle all the daily shit (laughs).

Fred, anything in particular that you ask from Kimi?

FV: No, he is simply the reference we need. As I have already said, in a growth process, there are levels and, to reach the next one, we needed someone like him. It will allow us to strengthen the system in the first instance and give an impulse in the second. He will be the perfect reference in technical discussions. He already is if we refer to the meetings, quite numerous, that we have had. No hesitation, no frills with him, but a clear line to achieve the goal. For the engineers, such a guy is priceless. It prevents you from getting lost. It saves you from thinking about it. If the driver is hesitant, if he doesn’t know where he’s going, a kind of flotation settles in the debriefings and that’s very bad. Nothing like that with a Kimi. There are questions, there are always questions, but the course is set. There are the pillars of performance which are the engine, the aero, the budget and… the driver! There is no comparison to be made between Charles, Marcus, Antonio and Kimi who are not at the same level of career, you just have to admit that one has a background that the others don’t have. Maybe they’ll get it tomorrow, that’s not the point. The fact is, we needed a guy like him now. He will push us to be 100% focused on the technical stuff which is the most important thing for the team and for me.

Does Kimi remind you of a driver you’ve already worked with or is he a unique race animal?

FV: An animal (laughs)? I don’t like to make comparisons. What is certain is that we have a good feeling. You know, at this point in the season, everyone is always very happy. Everyone will be world champion, all the team members are the best friends in the world and, after two or three races, everything explodes. Between us, the feeling was good from the beginning because we talk about the same thing in the same way. We’re on the same page, if you will. We have the same approach and, for me, it is very important that we are aligned with the fundamentals.

Kimi, do you sometimes see a hint of Peter Sauber in Frédéric Vasseur?

KR: Yes, at the hair level (laughs)! More seriously, Swiss, French, everyone has their own way of doing things. I spent a year with Peter and that was quite a while ago. We then had the good relationships we still have today. He never blamed me for leaving at the end of the first season when we had signed a three-year contract. I was fine here and I didn’t really have any reason to leave, except that McLaren was the best team at the time with Ferrari. However, when I left, I wanted Sauber to be well treated by McLaren. I wanted this departure to be beneficial to both of us. I wanted to make sure that the team wouldn’t suffer when I left. We split up on good terms. Today, the team has a different name, but the mentality is the same. People think the same way. I am happy to be back.

Does it matter to you, that change of name from Sauber to Alfa Romeo?

KR: The name is different but the people are the same.

FV: From a sporting and technical point of view, it doesn’t matter to me. What matters is the group we form. It’s the people. We don’t change ownership, we don’t change management, we change names, but it’s more to extend the collaboration with Alfa Romeo, so that the company is even more involved in the project. This is a step forward for the company.

I'm here because I see the potential, I see the team, the guys, Fred

I’m here because I see the potential, I see the team, the guys, Fred

Kimi, for what may be your last challenge in F1, you could have opted for something quieter. After Ferrari, did you need something close to your heart to keep the wish to fight, to keep the desire?

KR: No! If the desire hadn’t been there, it wasn’t coming back here that would have brought it back. I’m here because the desire and pleasure have not left me. I wouldn’t spend all that time and energy on something I don’t want to do anymore. It’s true, I really appreciate the time I now spend at home with my wife and children, but I still need that to balance my life. I’m not coming back to Hinwil to complete the circle as I’ve heard. I never had the will to finish where I started. I’m here because I see the potential, I see the team, the guys, Fred. There’s something to do here. Will we make it? Maybe or maybe not, but if we fail, it certainly won’t be because we haven’t tried hard enough. I have a good feeling and, in the past, it has rarely cheated on me. When I returned to Lotus after my WRC seasons, I had the same feeling as today.

Would you try a rally again?

FV: No way! Not for two years, in any case.

KR: I think you have your answer (laughs).

Fred, from the day Kimi signed the contract, did you suddenly feel the weight of pressure on your shoulders?

FV: Not in the slightest! I’m a big boy, the pressure, I put it on myself. I don’t need Kimi because it’s inherent to the business. We want to be successful, we want to improve and it is this desire that creates the pressure. It is beneficial to the system. Waiting for Kimi to put pressure on us would be the wrong approach. Kimi wants results as much as we want results, and we are pushing in the same direction. The pressure doesn’t come from one person.

Kimi, you don’t live very far from Hinwil. Aren’t you afraid that you will be asked to come to the factory too often?

KR: Shh, don’t give them any bad ideas (laughs)! Come on, seriously, it’s quite nice to come here. It doesn’t bother me and, better said, I appreciate coming. I like the discussions with the guys, I like the atmosphere of the factory. This is the time of year when my schedule allows me to do so, and I really appreciate it. After that, it’s more complicated when you have a series of race weekends, but if it’s for a good reason, I’m always happy to come. Nevertheless, if it means coming for bullshit, no.

Fred, knowing that Kimi can be here in less than an hour, is it a comfort, even a reassurance?

FV: I don’t know if we can talk about “comfort”, but drivers are an important part of the system. If they are happy to spend time in the factory, it’s great for the guys, for the team, for the cohesion. It’s great that Kimi is very open to this kind of support and that he lives in the area. This is an advantage, but I don’t choose my drivers based on their geographical position.

KR: It’s true that it’s fun. The other time, I stopped by with my son, just like that, unexpectedly. It creates other bonds. More private.

You both have a reputation for loathing the “bullshit” as the English say. This “true talk” that characterizes you, is that what brings you closer?

FV: Let’s see… Let’s just say it’s a good start.

KR: We may have problems, but we will talk about them frankly, without bias, without misdirected ways. It is important in a relationship to know that you can have this frank and direct relationship. In any case, it’s important to me.

FV: For me too!

Fred, did you discover anything about Kimi that you didn’t suspect?

FV: We didn’t know each other before, but I think he’s much more open than you can imagine when you don’t hang out with him.

Kimi, same question….

KR: I don’t have any preconceived images of people. Whether it’s good or bad, I don’t judge until I know. I had heard some things about Fred that seem to fit him well, and I’m glad. Things like “pure racer”. I have been in teams where things have not always gone as well as I would have liked, where unfortunately there was a lot more to talk about than racing. Nothing like that here.

FV: Don’t talk like that, you’re going to move me to tears (laughs).

If you can bring the team to the top, will it be the greatest success of your career?

FV: What do you mean by “top”?

KR: Based on my personal experience, winning with Lotus was more rewarding than winning with McLaren or Ferrari for the simple reason that we were starting from afar. If you win in a team with which everyone expects you to win, it’s very different from winning when no one is expecting it.

FV: Honestly, last year, I think I had more fun with a 6th place or two cars in the points than Toto (Wolff. ed.) when Lewis Hamilton was victorious. It was a challenge! Less than ten months earlier, we were 4 seconds down… The success is different whether we call ourselves Mercedes, Ferrari or Sauber. For us, it was to constantly improve throughout the season. Race after race, we were always a little better. We started from the bottom of the grid. We were P9 in the first third of the season, able to qualify in Q3 in the second third, and P5 in the last 7 races. With the new regulations, it is impossible to predict where we will start the season, but I want to keep the same capacity for improvement.

Fred, you know the expression “Flying Finn”. Do you really think the Finns are flying?

FV: I’m a very down-to-earth person, but if Kimi shows me that it’s possible, I’d believe it.

Kimi, do you think the famous “French touch” exists?

KR: It’s not easy to apply it in F1, but the progress made last year by the team shows that there may be something about it. That being said, success in F1 is rarely the success of a single man.

Finally, when the time comes to celebrate your first joint podium, will it be champagne or vodka for everyone?

FV: Why choose?

KR: Yes, both!

Kimi Vasseur3

 

Peter Sauber: “Kimi is very serious about it, he wants to make a difference.”

Peter Sauber gave ‘Auto Motor und Sport’ a long interview, talking about his beginnings in motorsport and his years in Formula 1.

video in German: Auto Motor und Sport

excerpts of him talking about Kimi Räikkönen:

“Even today I still don’t know why I did it, why I gave him a test at all. His manager back then, Robertson, came to us, I later called him a carpet dealer because he sold Kimi so well to me that I said, “Ok, I’ll give Kimi a car for a day to test”. And then Robertson said, “3 days!” Impossible, on 3 days you can test 6 drivers! But somehow he could persuade me and then Kimi drove 3 days.

On the 2nd day I drove to Mugello with Willi Rampf, our technical director at that time, and we watched Kimi. Kimi fascinated me. Not necessarily the driving. Of course, he only drove a few formula races, had no experience, but everything went well. He didn’t talk much, he didn’t know much English. But he had a body language that fascinated me. And I think it was Kimi’s body language that convinced me. Not the fast lap times, he was simply fast, but he wasn’t so excessive. Just fast right away and if you gave him fresh tyres then he got as much faster as he needed to get. And when you took the fuel out, he got as much faster as he needed. It all went very professionally.

In the beginning he always came in after about 6 or 7 laps although he would have had to drive longer. He couldn’t hold his head any longer, he had no experience with g-forces. And when they told him you had to stay out longer, he still came back in after his laps. Stubborn. And if you have seen him in the pit lane, if he has walked towards you, then you have had the feeling, if you do not go to the side now, he runs through you. That was just… – I have to convey my impressions like this – Kimi was just fascinating. Willi and I agreed. He gets a contract.

Q: But then he was gone after one year. That was also a somewhat hairy story…

“That was the same stubbornness. But in the end it was a thing that was absolutely okay for us. We always needed money and finally there was a good deal with McLaren-Mercedes.

Q: What do you expect for this season? Now with your old driver Kimi Räikkönen..

“I’m glad, of course. It’s almost like a childlike joy for me that he comes back. And he also comes back and wants to make a difference. He is very serious about it. By the way, that’s of course Beat Zehnder, who made sure that the contact to Kimi always existed over the years.”