Source: Turun Sanomat
F1 champion Kimi Räikkönen has officially been the Finnish sports ambassador in the world this year. One and a half weeks before reaching the age of 38, the Finn doesn’t want to show off his title in any way.
Räikkönen sat down for an interview with Turun Sanomat, knowing that we are now talking about representation of Finland.
What does the title mean that you got in January at sports gala?
It is great but it doesn’t change anything. It felt nice to get a great prize, Räikkönen wonders and takes a better position in his chair.
You are the only Finn with such a title.
That is why it is even greater but I guess there will be others in the future, Räikkönen says with a smile.
Was there a change that now you have to represent Finland more and more?
No, really, nothing has changed. I have always been and will always be just myself. That title doesn’t change anything.
Do you feel you represent Finland when you race?
Not really. I’m not going to race for Finland now. But just for myself, though maybe someone might feel something else.
However, in the results list, there is a Finnish flag after your name.
Still, I do not race for Finland. I don’t drive here because I represent Finland. If you ask me for whom I drive, I would say more my sponsors than my country. It would be a different matter if I ever had some help from Finland in my career, but that has not happened. I’m pretty happy I’m Finnish, but I’m here for myself.
Prime Minister Juha Sipilä said at Finnish sports gala before presenting your prize that you are the reason why he and so many Finns are immersed at home on the couch every second Sunday to watch F1.
It was nice to hear. But it doesn’t change my opinion. I do not drive because I am Finnish but because I’m myself.
The national anthem however still stirs you?
I don’t have anything against it, even after those comments someone might think so when I don’t drive for Finland. But I’m here for my own pleasure and not just because I’m from some country.
So you don’t represent Finland like your friends in national hockey team at the World Cup?
It’s a different matter. F1 is not a national team competition. It would be a different thing if separate national teams would race – like in motocross – where all the countries are against each other. Even they don’t drive for their country during the rest of the season, but for themselves and for the team, Räikkönen informs.
What if F1 was an Olympic sport – would you then feel like representing Finland?
Certainly a little more but even then it would be more fun to drive to myself. Of course the country is involved in the Olympic Games but will be seen more in a team than an individual athlete.
Are you proud of your Finnishness?
I’m sure. I can’t say yes because I have never thought about it. Finland is fine place. I would not want to be from any other country.
Finns are known as quiet and calm people around the world. Is it therefore easier to approach this sport?
It doesn’t matter. Everyone approaches their own work and things differently. And I don’t know if there is any truth in that description of Finnishness. If you take a hundred Finns, a half is different, the others are of another kind – and you guys in Turku are the chatty ones, Räikkönen says with a wide smile on his face.
You are extremely popular on this side of the globe in Japan and China. Does it cheer you up somehow, especially when you know the fanaticism of these fans?
It’s the same wherever we race. In some of these countries, the fans have different ways, different cultures, but it doesn’t change anything from my side.
Is there any race where you can be in peace?
Bahrain is probably a more peaceful place.
Has your popularity levelled over the years?
I don’t know. I have not kept records. You have to ask those fans. But it feels like it’s gone in the other direction and the fans have just become more. In the past, I maybe was more in peace.
Where do you cross the border between public and private Kimi?
That border goes at work, not anywhere else. It would be better if nobody knew, and I could just race.
You’ve been living in Switzerland for 17 years. Would you move back to Finland when your drive is over?
I don’t know. Hard to say. There are not any thoughts and it will be seen in time. We like to live in Switzerland when it is so peaceful. There are many reasons, Räikkönen acknowledged.