Kimi Räikkönen was the last Ferrari World Champion. Although things aren’t going well in his new team Alfa Romeo Racing, he still doesn’t want to stop at the age of 40. And he definitely wants to stay in Switzerland.
source: NZZ, 9.10.2019
You’ve been living in Baar for ten years. How often do you drive to the factory in Hinwil?
That depends very much on what you have to do at the moment. It can be several times a week or only once a month.
And then you are standing with your car in a traffic jam on the Seedamm towards Rapperswil-Jona?
No, I try to avoid rush hours.
You have been living in Switzerland for a long time. Why actually?
Before my time in Formula 1 I lived in England for a few years, then I did military service in Finland. And at the age of 21 I signed the contract with Sauber and moved straight to Hinwil because it was practical. Shortly afterwards I moved to Wollerau, and for ten years now I have been living in Baar, at Lake Zug.
Do you also feel a little Swiss in the meantime?
Yes, because this is my home, this is where I feel well. In Finland, on the other hand, I am only two or three times a year.
What do you appreciate most about Switzerland?
With its forests, fields and lakes, Switzerland reminds me a lot of Finland. There I grew up near Helsinki, in the countryside. Today I also live in the countryside, not far from the big city.
Don’t you miss your home?
Yes, from time to time. I used to travel to Finland more often, for example to ride motocross. Now that happens a lot less, also because I don’t have much time. I can no longer imagine living in Finland all the time. When I quit Formula 1, I will stay with my family in Switzerland.
You obviously also love local ice hockey: you are a shareholder in EV Zug.
I love ice hockey in general, not just the EV Zug. I played it myself in my youth, outside, on big fields. And before I became a fan of the EV Zug, I often attended games of the ZSC Lions. Back when my fellow countryman Ari Sulander was a goalie there.
Then you would have to support the HC Davos now, because Waltteri Immonen is working there as an assistant coach. He is a friend of yours and previously worked on the EV Zug.
No, no, I don’t change my preference. I remain loyal to the EV Zug.
Peter Sauber helped you to enter Formula 1 in 2001. Do you still have contact with him, the former team owner?
I see him quite frequently, twice this season alone in races. My relationship with him is still special, because without him I wouldn’t be in the same place in Formula 1. My life would have been completely different.
Now you’re back – not with Peter Sauber, but with the team he built.
That’s a good feeling.
But with Alfa Romeo Racing you’re no longer competing for victories, instead you’re behind in the midfield. That must be difficult.
No, because we know our natural limits. There are only a few teams that have a car to win. We don’t belong to them, not yet.
That must annoy a sportsman with your ambition.
Of course I want to win, but many things have to be right for that. And at Alfa Romeo there are certain limits.
What is the team missing?
We have good people, but we’re not as big as Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull or McLaren. With a smaller budget many things are more difficult. For example, we have to wait much longer until new parts are produced for the cars. And in our business you simply can’t afford the extra time.
What do you miss as a racing driver compared to your job at your previous employer Ferrari?
Nothing at all because things went up and down at Ferrari too. Of course, I was often positioned further ahead there – but since I always want to win, a third place didn’t satisfy me either.
Does the smaller Alfa Romeo Racing team offer you any advantages?
Yes, more freedom outside the races.
Yes, I have to make fewer public appearances, give fewer interviews. This means: I can spend more time with my family, I have more quality of life. I can’t give it enough weight.
You often emphasize the importance of the family.
It was always important to me, now it is even more important. Because the children are only young once, I want to enjoy this time with them.
What does a Formula 1 racer actually do between races? There has to be a lot of free time.
I have a very normal life, almost like my neighbours. I go shopping, cycle, play outside with the two kids.
And what about fitness?
Of course I go to the gym, not every day, but often. In any case, my days at home are well filled, often even fuller than days at races.
How do you get along with Alfa Romeo Racing team boss Frédéric Vasseur?
Our mentality is very similar, we’re both racers, and then you understand each other almost blindly. I noticed that immediately when we first met about a year ago. I also like the fact that he has a very direct, clear speech. You know where you stand.
Why are you actually still in Formula 1?
I don’t know. Well, I just love racing – at least as long as driving remains the most important thing and the other activities don’t get out of hand.
So you still have the same fun out on track as you used to.
Sure, if it runs smoothly. But if the results are as they were recently, it’s rather painful.
In a few days you will be 40. Years ago you claimed in an interview that at this age you are no longer in Formula 1.
Yes, that was actually my intention. But when I’m 50, I hope I won’t be there anymore.
Is racing an addiction for you?
No, racing takes the most time in my life, but it’s not the most important thing – and it never has been. Everyday life is worth much more to me, beyond victories or seventh places.
But it could be that you will stay in Formula 1 beyond the two-year contract.
Anything is possible. I have no plan beyond the duration of the contract.
With 308 Formula 1 races you are the third driver on the record list, just behind Rubens Barrichello and Fernando Alonso. Do you still want to break this record?
No, that doesn’t interest me at all.
Last year you published the autobiography “The unknown Kimi Räikkönen”. The book made headlines because you also talked about alcoholic excesses. Would you reveal so much of yourself again?
I could decide for myself what my autobiographer wrote and what not. There was nothing in it that I didn’t want.
But the book also triggered negative reactions.
That was not expected differently. But the autobiography only reveals a small part of me, it doesn’t show the whole Kimi.
So you keep your little secrets.
I have no secrets. But I don’t have to reveal everything to the public.
When you entered Formula 1 in 2001, you were the wild newcomer. How different is your generation from today’s boys like Max Verstappen or Charles Leclerc?
I don’t think that the young generation of drivers has any special characteristics. The difference to us older drivers is primarily that we have more experience.
Did you never have problems meeting the ever-changing technical demands of racing?
The technical gadgets, such as steering, were already demanding when I started in Formula 1. But of course, the technological difference between then and now is huge. But if you always stayed like me, it was easy to adapt to progress.
Do you give your young teammate Antonio Giovinazzi tips for successful driving?
If he comes up to me, I’ll give him tips. But we have different engineers working for us and I’m not his teacher. We look at each other’s data, and here we can learn the most – he from me, I from him. That helps to balance the cars.
But you are the leader.
No, I’m not more important than the guy next to me. My job is racing.