Kimi Räikkönen cherishes the Australian GP, because he has won here his last race five years ago. On the eve of a new season, the Finnish veteran talks candidly about his past and future in Formula 1. “Every driver wants to drive for Ferrari. Ask them.”
It could just be his last year in Formula One. Kimi Räikkönen (38) realizes it, but does not get upset. Why would he? Waste of energy. Hypothetical questions: he has heard them at the track for seventeen years and they are not lost on him. Räikkönen lives in the here and now, his gaze is focused on the upcoming season. A season in which his employer Ferrari does not want to settle again for the main supporting role behind Mercedes.
You said a few years ago that you only want to drive Formula 1 for Ferrari. What makes this team so special for you?
I think the whole world knows that this is a special team. Ferrari is Ferrari, it cannot be compared with any other team. And everyone dreams of reaching the same goal, everyone wants to drive for Ferrari. Ferrari has a great history as a racing team, but it is not only that, Ferrari is also one of the biggest names in the automotive industry. In addition, it is an Italian team, which means that there is a lot of passion for racing. Everything is really about racing.
So for you there is nothing like Ferrari.
Exactly. Each team has its own specifics and characteristics, but if you can choose, you obviously choose to race for Ferrari. I think all drivers will tell you the same story. Ask them.
For the third consecutive year you have signed a one-year contract without any guarantees of clauses for 2019. Do you not find it annoying to have to wait year in and year out what happens at the end of the season?
Not at all. Every year things happen that change your life and I think that’s fine. I do not care. At the beginning of my career, I preferred to have more certainty with long-term contracts, but now I think that a one-year contract is best for both parties. Maybe I discover at the end of the season that I do not feel like racing anymore, that’s why I think it’s great to look from year to year. And if Ferrari does not want to continue with me, they also have fewer problems. The situation is very clear for everyone.
But does not it feel like you have to take an exam every year?
Ah, it’s not that bad at all. And in the end, a year will take a long time.
You said recently that the results last season were not consistent with the speed you had. Especially in the last six, seven races you showed great form and you seriously challenged your teammate Sebastian Vettel. What was wrong, why did it take so long before you also had that speed?
We had too many problems in the first months to get the car to the level where we wanted it; besides, there were some incidents that cost us points. But in the end we have made progress step by step. Such a season is of course not ideal, but it has shown the resilience in our team.
The delay has cost you points and possibly a role in the championship. You were therefore more or less forced to help Vettel.
We have clear rules within the team, which are the same every year. If one driver deep into the season has a greater chance of winning the title, then it is clear what you have to do and what is expected of you. Seems to me also quite normal. It has always been like that and it will always stay that way. This year we both start at zero again and we see how the season is developing.
Are you approaching a race weekend differently if you know that you have to drive for your teammate?
No, it is not like that. There are so many scenarios where you can help, but also where you cannot do anything. Millions of things can happen in a weekend; you can never make a plan in advance.
Last year you lost in Monaco and Hungary, while you could have easily won there. Which of the two defeats hurt the most?
I think Monaco, because it is a special Grand Prix. More people are watching it. Although for me it is a weekend like any other weekend, it is seen by most as a special race. That is because it is riskier due to the lay-out of the circuit and the crash barrier being close everywhere..
You have not won a Grand Prix for five years now. Are you confident that after your 2007 title you can become a world champion again?
Absolutely, otherwise it does not make any sense for me to continue. I’m not interested in Formula 1 for statistics or just to say I am a Formula 1 driver, I am here to win races and fight for the world championship. And on the day that I feel I can no longer achieve one of these goals, I am the first to say that it has been enough. Then I will do something else with my life. It makes no sense for me to waste my time and that of the team if I cannot win anymore.
Was last season from a personal point of view the best season since your comeback at Ferrari in 2014?
I don’t know. Every year only one driver can be world champion and the rest of the drivers are unhappy. You know that with some teams you cannot race for the title, but with a top team like Ferrari you always want to win. If that does not work, it feels like you have failed. Sometimes the car is just not good enough. Last season I was fourth, this year I try again and I hope we are there from the first race. Everyone starts at zero, but I think it will be okay. It’s about small things that make the difference. We need to be a bit faster to get ourselves into a position where things will fall in our direction.
Something different: how is it to be a teammate of Vettel?
I think it’s no secret that we have fun working together. Our relationship is very sincere. That is not only good for us, but also for Ferrari. I am very happy and as a team don’t you want this to be the situation?
A new generation of drivers has risen, including Max Verstappen, Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon: young talents with many kilometres in their legs. You stepped into Formula 1 in 2001 with only 25 car races experience. Does that make a big difference?
Hmm, I do not know that. For me it did not matter at all. [Laughs] I was glad that I could skip a few years in the lower classes, but it’s much easier to get in now, because you have simulators and there are so many other ways to prepare yourself. But whether it also helps a lot for racing itself? That differs per individual.
You helped Felipe Nasr on the way to Formula One. Could a role as a mentor or manager be something for you after your active career?
Maybe. Not now at least. That with Felipe had to do with my own managers, who also helped him. Unfortunately he has no place in Formula 1. He is a great guy, but there are not many seats available and many drivers take a lot of money with them. And small teams are always looking for money.
In your career, you have had eleven teammates so far, eight of them for at least one entire season. With whom did you have the best relationship and with whom the worst?
I do not think I’ve ever had a relationship with anyone who was really very, very bad. The best? The relationship with David Coulthard (from 2002 to 2004 at McLaren) was very good, and with Sebastian: we know each other well and everything is very easy and naturally. Now we go for another year as teammates, for both of us and the team a good thing. So if I have to choose, I choose without doubt Sebastian.
You were not a big fan of Juan Pablo Montoya, with whom you drove at McLaren in 2005 and 2006. Or were you?
Right. But it was also not like we were always fighting, we had problems regularly, but not more than normal between two teammates.
Finally, which question would you like to hear that you have never been asked?
I don’t know, actually I’ve had too many questions. [Laughs] No more questions would be fine!
source: Formule1 magazine (big thanks to f1fan_33), translation by me