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.