At the age of 40 Kimi Räikkönen dared a new start with the Swiss Alfa Romeo team – he has no regrets.
A conversation with someone who prefers not to say anything. That’s how it is with Kimi Räikkönen, the Iceman of Formula 1, who stoically built this image by keeping silent.
But now it begins to crumble. Since this season, the almost 40-year-old Finn has been back with the Swiss Sauber team, where he launched his career in 2001. In eight out of twelve races he scored points for the racing team now called Alfa Romeo. Far from the immense pressure from Ferrari, he seems to feel comfortable. The fact that he won’t go into more detail on this afternoon before the Belgian Grand Prix is due to the narrow time window. Räikkönen talks for 10 minutes, then he has to go elsewhere.
It is the day on which he causes stir. Reserve driver Marcus Ericsson is in the paddock. Reason: Räikkönen suffered a muscle strain in his left leg. What happened? “Sport. Injury. Getting old,” says Räikkönen in staccato. “I’ve always said: sport is more dangerous than drinking. When you drink, you only get a hangover.”
Your biography says that you drank through 16 days in 2012 and then finished on the podium in Spain. What was your condition like?
That was normal for me.
16 days drunk was normal?
Well, I lived my life the way I wanted to for years. It may be difficult for some people to imagine something like that, but for me it wasn’t a problem.
Alcohol as an integral part of life?
Meanwhile I have other things to do than just drinking. Of course I still go out, but I have another task in life, I have a family. But the memories of the past are really good, I wouldn’t want to give them away.
You shy away from the public. Nevertheless, there is this book about you with such stories. Why?
It’s just a book that’s standing on a shelf in a bookshop. So it doesn’t bother me.
Do you like it?
I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t like it. For many years I had doubts as to whether I should do it, and I wasn’t convinced during its creation either. But looking back, it’s okay for me.
At almost 40, you are still in Formula 1. What do you appreciate about your profession, what not?
I like racing. The rest is there, too. (laughs)
The stuff around it still bothers you?
I’m only here to race. The other thing unfortunately belongs to Formula 1 and unfortunately it always will. But when I started the commitments were much less. Now there is more money in the game, more sponsors are involved, so I have to show my face there too. I can’t just take the money and do nothing for it.
Nobody forced you to continue driving in Formula 1.
No, it was my decision. And I don’t regret it.
Were your expectations fulfilled at Alfa Romeo?
I had none. Will I be in the top 10 or will I be last? I didn’t know. All I knew was that there were limits compared to the big teams: less money, less people. But what we have is pretty good. We are slowly improving. Of course I would like to fight for the podium, but I know where Sauber comes from. Three years ago the end was imminent.
Why didn’t you look for another racing series with less attention?
Because in Formula 1 the level is the highest. And the team is great, I’m trying to help them.
How much did your decision to start your career with Sauber contribute?
Not at all, not even that the team is based not far from my home in Baar. I just wanted to see what was possible. There are great people behind the project and we have a chance to do something good.
You seem fresher and happier than before at Ferrari. Is the impression deceptive?
I don’t think that’s the case. In many areas my job is still the same. The schedule on a weekend is 95 percent identical: meeting, practice, session, race.
And apart from that?
Besides racing, it’s more pleasant, that’ true. I have more freedom – also because the team is so close. I don’t have to spend the whole day in a plane to do anything in the factory. Many things have become much easier for me.
You are now also significantly involved in the development of the car. Do you like the role?
That was also the case with Ferrari: driving and improving the car. But: Here they listen more to me. It’s not as difficult like at Ferrari to get people to trust me.
Are you re-experiencing Formula 1?
Not really. I’ve been in different positions and teams during my career. Now it’s a bit more difficult for me at the start of a race because the chances of an accident are greater. I drive against more people, it’s closer. But the story remains: I try to overtake and not be overtaken.
How much have you changed since 2001?
I have changed like everyone else in 20 years. My life is different now, I have a family.
Two weeks ago your four-year-old son Robin did his first laps in a kart, your two-year-old daughter Rianna was already sitting in one. Are there any career plans?
No, no. Robin drove already motocross and quads. Now it was fun to see him in a kart.
Do you fear for him?
I was worried about motocross. It took me a long time to really like that. Again and again I told him to start slowly because he could get hurt very badly. After his first laps in the kart, I asked him if it was easier than on the bike. He said yes. He enjoyed it. Who knows what will come out of it.