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,
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.