“When I’m 50, I hope I won’t be there anymore.”

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.

More freedom?

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.

KimFloyd-The Wall

Forty years ago a memorable album and driver were born. With one thing in common: the wall

by Alberto Antonini

source: FormulaPassion.it

 

“No.”

The audience of journalists remained frozen for a moment, then they all applauded. With the exception of that colleague who had studied and formulated a half-minute question to be answered with a syllable. From that blond who looked like he just woke up (badly) and instead came from a day on the track.

Kimi Räikkönen turns forty: and in the game of “remember where you were when…?” I wanted to look around the events of that autumn 1979 (yes, of course I was there, and also quite big; so big that I don’t remember it anymore). Well, when Kimi-Matias was a month old, in the famous house with the toilet in the yard, Pink Floyd released one of their most iconic albums. A concept based on the story of a man who builds a (virtual) wall around himself to protect himself from the world. And so far, it seems to me that the comparison with the character Räikkönen may fit well. Then came the film, with the role of the protagonist, Pink, played by Bob Geldof, at the time another beautiful sociopathic temper. So much that during the filming, Alan Parker, the director, went so far as to tell him that yes, it’s okay to internalize, but it may be better to reveal a feeling or two…

Is it just me who sees the similarities? I met Kimi when he was a rookie in 2001. He talked so softly (it’s interesting to hear me say it) that you had to lean forward. And it was of little use because, rather than expressing concepts, he threw words into the mixer. But I remember a sentence from the first interview, when I asked him about his military service. “I didn’t like it so much. I don’t like having people tell me what to do.”

Well, welcome to Formula 1, the planet where everyone thinks they always have something to tell you (however, if you find it, enjoy the video of Kimi as a recruit instructor). That first year in Sauber, a young Räikkönen discovered at his own expense that isolating himself from the world has a price. They realized that he didn’t pay attention during the briefings, he was reprimanded and had to apologize to everyone. I imagine that from there he learned to listen without giving satisfaction. I had several meetings with him at Ferrari. He mostly played with his mobile phone or with what was in front of him. But then when he went to the media he would repeat perfectly the instructions he had in the briefing. (The other driver had done it too…).

Not that it was always easy. Once we had a discussion during a winter test. During the long run there was a failure of the MGU-K. At the time, however, due to instructions from the top – indeed from the very top – one should not talk about problems with the power unit. He grumbled: “I don’t feel like telling people bullshit”. I told him it wasn’t bullshit at all: it was enough to talk about an electrical problem, after all what is the “K” if not an electric motor? He looked at me strangely, and went in front of the press. And he didn’t disappoint me.

Another time, however, still in a briefing, he humiliated a marketing manager who had shown him a request sheet, by scrunching it up in front of his face. “This stuff is useless.” And I also remember that debriefing (listened to through headphones) at the end of a race in which he felt penalized by his strategy. You’ll excuse me if I don’t say which one, but Kimi was silent or almost for the whole meeting, and at the time of the comments he started in a low voice: “Well, I don’t understand why you keep me here and you pay me what you pay me if then I can’t do my race…”. I don’t add anything else, except that that meeting didn’t end in a low voice. And we had also won…

Of all the nicknames, Iceman always seemed the least appropriate to me. I don’t pretend to judge people, but maybe I have a minimum capacity to describe them, having worked with them. Kimi is not a cold man; he is a shy man, with some communication difficulties, who has built his own wall, made of simulated indifference and sometimes even aggressiveness, to defend the thing he cares most about: his privacy. He has always privileged the essential. Although he drove for many years in a British team, unlike Vettel who uses fluent and refined English, he developed a primordial language; with his own concept of the comparative of majority (“more worse”) and a series of made phrases, such as “it is what it is”, which he uses to flavor public statements. Except then to amaze you with ironic and sharp phrases that show how attentive it really is to the world around him. I once accompanied him to Taiwan for a Ferrari promotion day. He quietly endured the press ritual and the adoration of the fans. Then, in a reserved room, in front of a chicken salad, he murmured with a half smile: “Does the California sell so badly that it is necessary to do all these events?…”.

He hates wasting time, especially on planes, he hates disorganization, but it only takes a moment to ignite his enthusiasm. Sponsorship day, on the outskirts of Shanghai, a horrendous dusty shed. He arrives and starts to protest: “There’s too much dust here, I have asthma, I can’t stay here…”. The program includes a meeting with a Chinese football star. And immediately afterwards, Kimi has to get into a road Ferrari and, controlling the drift, try to hit a ball and send it into the net. That’s like threading a needle on a horse. Well, can you believe that an hour later, when the cameras were off, he was still trying, tyre squeaking and laughing, and he kept going until he managed to hit at least the post?

The Kimi at the tracks and the private Kimi are two totally different people. Once we were guests of a mutual friend during a Grand Prix weekend. The first two days I saw the best Kimi, smiling and relaxed. He would go into the house, change immediately into his resting uniform – black clothing and white socks – and go about his business. I saw him with my own eyes, armed with a screwdriver, installing the wi-fi at our guest’s house. He arrives Saturday, bad qualification, he enters without talking, takes his share of pepperoni pizza and sits alone on the couch. The only time he opens his mouth is when a suspicious crackle rises from the sofa: “Hey, it’s the leather that makes the noise, not me!”

Sunday arrives, the tension of the race subsides and the only ice left is that in our glasses of vodka and sparkling water. Sitting in the garden, he starts to tell me in detail how he and his friends, in Finland, have fun with jet skis, so much that by now those from the water police have become friends… A river of words, but without protagonism. That evening I was reminded of another evening (or rather, late night) in Monaco, when I had met his father Matti. In an unpretentious bar above the Tabac, as unpretentious (always relatively, you understand) was the boat that housed Räikkönen sr. He had a black shirt, a bit of belly like an old rocker and an innate sympathy. I think his son looks more like him than he imagines. And I know he suffered so much when Matti left, too soon.

At this point, I know that someone will object: and about Räikkönen the driver, about his contract, about how the story with Ferrari ended, don’t you tell us anything? The fact is, I wanted to tell you about this, about Kimi. Trying to make it clear how and why, no matter how apparently abulic, grumpy, even unpleasant he can be, the instinctive sympathy he arouses in so many people is not misplaced. Of the driver I would like to mention two memories: one is the last (for now!) victory in F1, which in these days also turns one year. That evening in Austin I was working in the office and I could hear that in the big room, equipped with several bottles of champagne, the tone of voice of Kimi rose more and more. At the end he didn’t attend the party that was organized in the hotel. The few who saw him had to go up to the room…

And then there’s a second-hand story, told to me at Maranello. Also at the end of October, but twelve years ago. You know well what I’m talking about. Late at night, a group of Ferrari engineers appear in a bar. With them is a guy wrapped in a sweatshirt, the hood is pulled over his eyes. As soon as he enters the counter, his face is revealed and he screams: “I AM KIMI RRRÄIKKKKÖNEN… FORRRMULA ONE WORRRLD CHAMPIONNNN”…

Happy birthday, Pinki.

Kimi Räikkönen answering fan questions

Before the Russian Grand Prix, f1news.ru invited readers to ask questions to Kimi Räikkönen. They were sent several hundred questions – and selected the most interesting, unusual and popular, and in Sochi, the Alfa Romeo driver answered them.

Question (Natalya, Zhukovsky): Kimi, you give the impression of a calm, mature and strong-willed person who is not afraid of anything. However, was there a case in your racing career or everyday life that really scared you and made you rethink your values?
Kimi Räikkönen: It’s not about fear. You do what you have to do, try to avoid stupid things – so far I have succeeded. Of course, there are dangerous moments in our sport, but they are part of the game, and you don’t think too much about them.

Question: (Victor, Surgut): Has your attitude to life changed after you became the father of two children?
Kimi Räikkönen: I don’t think so. Of course, with the arrival of children, you have new priorities and responsibilities, but, in my opinion, life has not changed compared to the one I had before the birth of the kids.

Question: (Aleksey, Gomel): Most children aged 4-5 years old only master the bike, while your son Robin is already learning to ride a motorcycle. Is this the result of your special approach to education or just heredity?
Kimi Räikkönen: I would not say that this is due to a special approach or heredity. I am sure that if the children wanted to play football or the piano, they would ask me about it.

Question (Andrei, Petrozavodsk): Do you plan to take on the role of coach for Robin in the future, similar to that played by Jos Verstappen with Max?
Kimi Räikkönen: If the children ask for help, then I will give them advice. However, I do not think that I will continue to appear in the paddock after the end of my racing career.

Question (Timofey, Minsk): What is your advise to young racers?
Kimi Räikkönen: Be patient, fast and work hard to fulfill your dream! However, keep in mind that everyone is different, and if a certain approach worked for one person, not necessarily it will work for another.

Question (Sergey, Krasnodar): Is modern Formula 1 different from what it was 10-15 years ago? What major changes have occurred? A different atmosphere, new rules?
Kimi Räikkönen: Sport has changed. Now there is more work with the press and sponsors compared to when I started my career. Racing has become more “sterile”, but in the end it all comes down to the fact that twenty guys in fast cars are chasing along a track. The concept has remained the same.

Question (Alexei, Moscow): Can you describe in three words the teams for which you competed in Formula 1?
Kimi Räikkönen: I can characterize Alfa Romeo – my team.

Question (Anatoly, Simferopol): If you had to fly to the moon with three Formula 1 drivers, who would you choose?
Kimi Räikkönen I am not sure that I want to spend so much time with Formula 1 drivers!

Question (Oleg, Kursk): As a racer, you have visited many countries. Is there any special place where you like the most?
Kimi Räikkönen It would be great if a Formula 1 race was held in Finland. Many Finnish fans come to each race, and I would be pleased if my home race were part of the championship.