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

0708-2019-LifeAndStyleMX Kimi-1
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.

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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.

Kimi Raikkonen: “Then they should burn the book.”

source: Speedweek

Kimi, you have published a book that has become a bestseller in Finland. Has thus  the opinion of the fans at home changed?

It’s hard to say because I only spend an average of three weeks a year in Finland. Our home is Switzerland. When I travel to Finland, it’s to our summer house, which is very remote. But what I noticed in Switzerland: more people come and politely ask for an autograph. I guess that’s because I’m driving for a Swiss team again.

Do you feel a bit Swiss after such a long time?

No, but I’ve been living in Switzerland since 2001, it’s more my home than Finland. We feel very much at home in Switzerland. I don’t care what the Finnish fans think of the Formula 1 drivers. I even think they’re more critical of local drivers than of foreign drivers. I guess that’s because they’re angry because we don’t do anything special for them.

Does it mean anything to you that you wrote a bestseller?

No, that was never the goal. I just wanted to tell things the way I experienced them. Of course I hear about the sales numbers, little by little the book came onto the market in different languages. But I don’t ask how sales are going. If people like the book, I’m happy about it. If they don’t like it, let them burn it and at least use it as a heat source.

Do your children actually speak Finnish?

Finnish and English. Our daughter becomes two, she only speaks a few words. Robin probably speaks better English than Finnish. He’s in kindergarten now, but it’s an English-speaking kindergarten. I think we will stay in Switzerland and when he comes to school, it will be an international school. He will also learn German or Swiss German like that, when they are so small, they will learn it in no time at all. I think it’s good when the children grow up multilingual, it’s much easier than learning a language later.

What is Robin enthusiastic about?

Motocross. He likes cars, but I think he prefers bikes. But nobody knows yet where the journey is going. One day the kids like this, the next day something completely different, it changes all the time. Maybe this summer I’ll put him in a go-kart. At this age everything is just a game. If it doesn’t become racing, it doesn’t matter.

How will you react if he wants to pursue a racing career?

Then that’s okay, too. We will support whatever they want to do. For my part, they can also become dancers. It is only important to me that they enjoy what they do. I want them to do something meaningful that fulfills them. I don’t want them hanging around train stations doing stupid things. Then I prefer them to stay at home and play computer games.

Kimi Räikkönen & Frédéric Vasseur “We are on the same wavelength”

source: Autohebdo Nr 2204, 21. February 2019

The Hinwil team, which has made authenticity its trademark over the years, is definitely protected from false pretences. Tenors of straight talking, Fred the boss and Kimi the champion lift the veil on their nascent relationship and assert their truths. It’s sometimes brutal, often funny and always moving. Dialogue of racers.

Did you know each other before you started working together?

Frédéric Vasseur: To my knowledge, no.

Kimi Räikkönen: Neither to mine. We must have said “hello” to each other in the paddock when we met, but it never went any further.

So, what did you talk about when you first met?

FV: Racing! Not very original, but we had to start somewhere.

KR: It was the day after Monza, if I remember correctly.

FV: He’s good. I went to your place in the afternoon and we let go for four hours.

KR: It’s all been done! Ferrari, Sauber, etc. We’ve done the world of F1 again!

FV: We didn’t even talk about the contract, just cars.

KR: That’s why you came back on Thursday.

FV: Yes, we shook hands and that was it.

Kimi, did Fred ask you what Sauber looked like in 2001?

KR: I think we talked about that, but the problem is that I don’t really remember myself what it was like. The part where we are now existed, that’s for sure. There was this L shape, but it was much smaller. The first time I came to meet Peter Sauber was in this building, but downstairs. Now, the management has gone higher up…

What were you doing in 2001, Fred? Did the names Sauber, Räikkönen mean anything to you?

FV: What is certain is that I didn’t have to focus on what Sauber could look like. In 2001, I was doing F3, but that was before the Euroseries….

You were already taking care of young drivers, you couldn’t help to be interested in this young Finnish guy who had just jumped from the tub of a Formula Renault to that of an F1…

FV: I remember a Finn in Spa in a FR 2.0, but I don’t really know if it was Kimi or Bottas a little later…

KR: Well, it must have been me since I took part in a European round at Spa in 2000!

FV: It must have been you, then! I was in F3 and I thought he was sending some heavy stuff, this kid.

KR: And how, I even won! It was just after my first test in an F1 car which I had done in Mugello. I had a hard time in the first few laps. I felt like I was being arrested. At the top of Raidillon, I was completely composed. It took me all day to find my benchmarks.

Kimi, if I say “art grand prix”, does that mean anything to you?

KR: I knew it was a racing team, but when you get into your F1 business, you don’t see anything else.

FV: You didn’t care, eh! (laughs)

KR: Yeah, but I also knew that Todt was involved. In the end I knew a lot about it (laughs). I even had to go under your awning to greet a fellow Finn.

FV: Kovalainen!

KR: Exactly!

Fred, what did you do to break the ice with the Iceman?

FV: First of all, I didn’t have to take a peak (laughs)! We talked about the thing we had in common: a passion for racing. We connected quickly. It was relaxed.

Kimi, did Fred find the right words to make you melt?

KR: Well, it looks like he did because I felt comfortable right away. Talking with Fred was like talking to an old friend. I appreciated the directness, frankness. I don’t like people who talk for nothing.

We haven’t talked much about our lives so far, more racing but it’s kind of like we’ve always known each other. We still have some way to go towards each other but the main thing is already there. On the work side, there’s not much to say, just look at what he has achieved in a little more than one season. It was the basis of our discussions, and facilitated my decision to come.

We recruited a lot last year.. We need to stabilize the system a little bit and Kimi will be the leader we expected

We recruited a lot last year.. We need to stabilize the system a little bit and Kimi will be the leader we expected

Fred, going from a rookie like Charles Leclerc to an experienced driver like Kimi, does it require a review of the approach?

FV: Last year, we had a rookie and a rather experienced pilot in the person of Marcus Ericsson. This year, all things considered, we have the same situation with Kimi and her huge experience on the one hand, and Antonio (Giovinazzi ed.) on the other hand, who is however a little more experienced than Charles was at the same time, a year ago. They’re a good pair, well balanced. It is very important to have someone like Kimi with us, because the team is very young despite its years of presence in F1. We recruited a lot last year, about sixty people. We need to stabilize the system a little bit and Kimi will be the leader we expected. At this stage of our growth, it is a huge plus to have the support of a driver like him.

Kimi, what do you expect from your return to Hinwil? Start up again? Find a welcoming place to finish your career? Find your youth again?

KR: None of this. Working as hard as possible and see what we get. I don’t have any quantified objectives in mind, I’ve never had any. I am not approaching 2019 in a different way than 2018 because I am moving from Maranello to Hinwil. We do our best and we see what we get, I have always had this approach. Even in karting. I have no other way of thinking. There is a good group of people here and if we do a good job, the results will follow. Will we be good? How long will it take to be in on it? No one knows and it’s like that every year. At Ferrari or here.

FV: The only certainty is that we are not going to be world champions. But for the rest…

What do you expect from Fred? If you are expecting something….

KR: We’re just starting to work together, and I’m going to need some races before I can expect anything at all. Nevertheless, if he can keep us concentrated and if he can protect us from all the nonsense that politics generates in the teams, it will already be a good start. That’s what I hope and that’s what I’m sure I’ll get with someone like him. I wouldn’t have come if I didn’t feel the guy. So, of course, I expect him to handle all the daily shit (laughs).

Fred, anything in particular that you ask from Kimi?

FV: No, he is simply the reference we need. As I have already said, in a growth process, there are levels and, to reach the next one, we needed someone like him. It will allow us to strengthen the system in the first instance and give an impulse in the second. He will be the perfect reference in technical discussions. He already is if we refer to the meetings, quite numerous, that we have had. No hesitation, no frills with him, but a clear line to achieve the goal. For the engineers, such a guy is priceless. It prevents you from getting lost. It saves you from thinking about it. If the driver is hesitant, if he doesn’t know where he’s going, a kind of flotation settles in the debriefings and that’s very bad. Nothing like that with a Kimi. There are questions, there are always questions, but the course is set. There are the pillars of performance which are the engine, the aero, the budget and… the driver! There is no comparison to be made between Charles, Marcus, Antonio and Kimi who are not at the same level of career, you just have to admit that one has a background that the others don’t have. Maybe they’ll get it tomorrow, that’s not the point. The fact is, we needed a guy like him now. He will push us to be 100% focused on the technical stuff which is the most important thing for the team and for me.

Does Kimi remind you of a driver you’ve already worked with or is he a unique race animal?

FV: An animal (laughs)? I don’t like to make comparisons. What is certain is that we have a good feeling. You know, at this point in the season, everyone is always very happy. Everyone will be world champion, all the team members are the best friends in the world and, after two or three races, everything explodes. Between us, the feeling was good from the beginning because we talk about the same thing in the same way. We’re on the same page, if you will. We have the same approach and, for me, it is very important that we are aligned with the fundamentals.

Kimi, do you sometimes see a hint of Peter Sauber in Frédéric Vasseur?

KR: Yes, at the hair level (laughs)! More seriously, Swiss, French, everyone has their own way of doing things. I spent a year with Peter and that was quite a while ago. We then had the good relationships we still have today. He never blamed me for leaving at the end of the first season when we had signed a three-year contract. I was fine here and I didn’t really have any reason to leave, except that McLaren was the best team at the time with Ferrari. However, when I left, I wanted Sauber to be well treated by McLaren. I wanted this departure to be beneficial to both of us. I wanted to make sure that the team wouldn’t suffer when I left. We split up on good terms. Today, the team has a different name, but the mentality is the same. People think the same way. I am happy to be back.

Does it matter to you, that change of name from Sauber to Alfa Romeo?

KR: The name is different but the people are the same.

FV: From a sporting and technical point of view, it doesn’t matter to me. What matters is the group we form. It’s the people. We don’t change ownership, we don’t change management, we change names, but it’s more to extend the collaboration with Alfa Romeo, so that the company is even more involved in the project. This is a step forward for the company.

I'm here because I see the potential, I see the team, the guys, Fred

I’m here because I see the potential, I see the team, the guys, Fred

Kimi, for what may be your last challenge in F1, you could have opted for something quieter. After Ferrari, did you need something close to your heart to keep the wish to fight, to keep the desire?

KR: No! If the desire hadn’t been there, it wasn’t coming back here that would have brought it back. I’m here because the desire and pleasure have not left me. I wouldn’t spend all that time and energy on something I don’t want to do anymore. It’s true, I really appreciate the time I now spend at home with my wife and children, but I still need that to balance my life. I’m not coming back to Hinwil to complete the circle as I’ve heard. I never had the will to finish where I started. I’m here because I see the potential, I see the team, the guys, Fred. There’s something to do here. Will we make it? Maybe or maybe not, but if we fail, it certainly won’t be because we haven’t tried hard enough. I have a good feeling and, in the past, it has rarely cheated on me. When I returned to Lotus after my WRC seasons, I had the same feeling as today.

Would you try a rally again?

FV: No way! Not for two years, in any case.

KR: I think you have your answer (laughs).

Fred, from the day Kimi signed the contract, did you suddenly feel the weight of pressure on your shoulders?

FV: Not in the slightest! I’m a big boy, the pressure, I put it on myself. I don’t need Kimi because it’s inherent to the business. We want to be successful, we want to improve and it is this desire that creates the pressure. It is beneficial to the system. Waiting for Kimi to put pressure on us would be the wrong approach. Kimi wants results as much as we want results, and we are pushing in the same direction. The pressure doesn’t come from one person.

Kimi, you don’t live very far from Hinwil. Aren’t you afraid that you will be asked to come to the factory too often?

KR: Shh, don’t give them any bad ideas (laughs)! Come on, seriously, it’s quite nice to come here. It doesn’t bother me and, better said, I appreciate coming. I like the discussions with the guys, I like the atmosphere of the factory. This is the time of year when my schedule allows me to do so, and I really appreciate it. After that, it’s more complicated when you have a series of race weekends, but if it’s for a good reason, I’m always happy to come. Nevertheless, if it means coming for bullshit, no.

Fred, knowing that Kimi can be here in less than an hour, is it a comfort, even a reassurance?

FV: I don’t know if we can talk about “comfort”, but drivers are an important part of the system. If they are happy to spend time in the factory, it’s great for the guys, for the team, for the cohesion. It’s great that Kimi is very open to this kind of support and that he lives in the area. This is an advantage, but I don’t choose my drivers based on their geographical position.

KR: It’s true that it’s fun. The other time, I stopped by with my son, just like that, unexpectedly. It creates other bonds. More private.

You both have a reputation for loathing the “bullshit” as the English say. This “true talk” that characterizes you, is that what brings you closer?

FV: Let’s see… Let’s just say it’s a good start.

KR: We may have problems, but we will talk about them frankly, without bias, without misdirected ways. It is important in a relationship to know that you can have this frank and direct relationship. In any case, it’s important to me.

FV: For me too!

Fred, did you discover anything about Kimi that you didn’t suspect?

FV: We didn’t know each other before, but I think he’s much more open than you can imagine when you don’t hang out with him.

Kimi, same question….

KR: I don’t have any preconceived images of people. Whether it’s good or bad, I don’t judge until I know. I had heard some things about Fred that seem to fit him well, and I’m glad. Things like “pure racer”. I have been in teams where things have not always gone as well as I would have liked, where unfortunately there was a lot more to talk about than racing. Nothing like that here.

FV: Don’t talk like that, you’re going to move me to tears (laughs).

If you can bring the team to the top, will it be the greatest success of your career?

FV: What do you mean by “top”?

KR: Based on my personal experience, winning with Lotus was more rewarding than winning with McLaren or Ferrari for the simple reason that we were starting from afar. If you win in a team with which everyone expects you to win, it’s very different from winning when no one is expecting it.

FV: Honestly, last year, I think I had more fun with a 6th place or two cars in the points than Toto (Wolff. ed.) when Lewis Hamilton was victorious. It was a challenge! Less than ten months earlier, we were 4 seconds down… The success is different whether we call ourselves Mercedes, Ferrari or Sauber. For us, it was to constantly improve throughout the season. Race after race, we were always a little better. We started from the bottom of the grid. We were P9 in the first third of the season, able to qualify in Q3 in the second third, and P5 in the last 7 races. With the new regulations, it is impossible to predict where we will start the season, but I want to keep the same capacity for improvement.

Fred, you know the expression “Flying Finn”. Do you really think the Finns are flying?

FV: I’m a very down-to-earth person, but if Kimi shows me that it’s possible, I’d believe it.

Kimi, do you think the famous “French touch” exists?

KR: It’s not easy to apply it in F1, but the progress made last year by the team shows that there may be something about it. That being said, success in F1 is rarely the success of a single man.

Finally, when the time comes to celebrate your first joint podium, will it be champagne or vodka for everyone?

FV: Why choose?

KR: Yes, both!

Kimi Vasseur3

 

Peter Sauber: “Kimi is very serious about it, he wants to make a difference.”

Peter Sauber gave ‘Auto Motor und Sport’ a long interview, talking about his beginnings in motorsport and his years in Formula 1.

video in German: Auto Motor und Sport

excerpts of him talking about Kimi Räikkönen:

“Even today I still don’t know why I did it, why I gave him a test at all. His manager back then, Robertson, came to us, I later called him a carpet dealer because he sold Kimi so well to me that I said, “Ok, I’ll give Kimi a car for a day to test”. And then Robertson said, “3 days!” Impossible, on 3 days you can test 6 drivers! But somehow he could persuade me and then Kimi drove 3 days.

On the 2nd day I drove to Mugello with Willi Rampf, our technical director at that time, and we watched Kimi. Kimi fascinated me. Not necessarily the driving. Of course, he only drove a few formula races, had no experience, but everything went well. He didn’t talk much, he didn’t know much English. But he had a body language that fascinated me. And I think it was Kimi’s body language that convinced me. Not the fast lap times, he was simply fast, but he wasn’t so excessive. Just fast right away and if you gave him fresh tyres then he got as much faster as he needed to get. And when you took the fuel out, he got as much faster as he needed. It all went very professionally.

In the beginning he always came in after about 6 or 7 laps although he would have had to drive longer. He couldn’t hold his head any longer, he had no experience with g-forces. And when they told him you had to stay out longer, he still came back in after his laps. Stubborn. And if you have seen him in the pit lane, if he has walked towards you, then you have had the feeling, if you do not go to the side now, he runs through you. That was just… – I have to convey my impressions like this – Kimi was just fascinating. Willi and I agreed. He gets a contract.

Q: But then he was gone after one year. That was also a somewhat hairy story…

“That was the same stubbornness. But in the end it was a thing that was absolutely okay for us. We always needed money and finally there was a good deal with McLaren-Mercedes.

Q: What do you expect for this season? Now with your old driver Kimi Räikkönen..

“I’m glad, of course. It’s almost like a childlike joy for me that he comes back. And he also comes back and wants to make a difference. He is very serious about it. By the way, that’s of course Beat Zehnder, who made sure that the contact to Kimi always existed over the years.”

Kimi Räikkönen “Also Vasseur is just a racer!”

source: Blick

Do you think that Alfa-Sauber can be one of the surprises of the 2019 season?

The feeling is pretty good. We tested almost everything, always got new parts – now we just have to evaluate things properly. You don’t have much time for that on the race weekends.

Your former Ferrari team-mate Vettel puts your new team at the top of the field. What do you say?

I don’t know where we stand exactly. It’s impossible to say. We only know our strengths, judging the competition is just a guessing game. I can only hope that we are fully there in the midfield. In a few weeks’ time we will certainly know more …

You’re the team leader now. Does that change anything for you?

No. We are two drivers and a lot of people preparing the car. They are all just as important. There is not only one key role.

And your new team mate Antonio Giovinazzi …

I’m sure we’ll get along fine. We are already exchanging ideas and have the same goal.

The new life with Alfa-Sauber has hardly surprised you?

No, I know Hinwil and the factory. I also didn’t have any big ideas about what it would be like in the next two years. All I know is that politics is certainly no longer in the focus. And that’s why I signed without hesitation. I’ll also be in the factory straightaway. And when I first met with Frédéric Vasseur, I immediately noticed: that is also just a racer full of passion.

So no more bullshit, no more negative stories and no more unnecessary stress…

That’s it. I only care about racing. I feel comfortable in the cockpit. That’s how it should be and will remain.

So only a happy Kimi is a fast Kimi…

I am happy when I can be with my family when I am away from the race tracks. Family is the most important point in life. There is nothing more valuable than children.

What is the difference between Kimi 2001 and Kimi 2019?

(laughs) I got older. But I have hardly changed much, even though I have seen and experienced a lot in the meantime. Inside I have remained the same.

And then there is also your year-long favorite club, the EV Zug…

Yes, it’s already set for the playoff since weeks. Unfortunately, the crucial phase begins when we are in Melbourne. But I’m certainly going to watch a game still. Or even more …

Kimi Räikkönen: “Antonio once raced for me!”

source: Autosprint No.8, 19 Feb 2019

One thing is certain: Alfa Romeo has given Räikkönen back the smile and the mood to joke that Ferrari’s last five years had taken away from him. Kimi and Giovinazzi, a few days before starting the test in Barcelona with the new Alfa Romeo F1 powered by Ferrari, allowed themselves a “day of nostalgia”, immersing themselves at Balocco in the history and culture of Alfa Romeo. Discovering how great the tradition and history of the Milanese brand is, the first constructor to win a Formula One world championship back in 1950. Enzo Ferrari called Alfa Romeo “la mamma”, precisely because it was Alfa that gave the young Drake almost a hundred years ago the chance to start his career, first as a driver and then as a team principal, to use modern terminology. The plunge into the Alfa Romeo history for Räikkönen and Giovinazzi took place at Balocco, the historic Alfa circuit that now belongs to the FCA group. Balocco, to put it simply, is to Alfa Romeo like the Fiorano track is to Ferrari. But Balocco is less well known among enthusiasts than Fiorano because it is hyper-secret and off-limits for everyone because here are tested all the prototypes under development of the Fiat group, and also those of Ferrari. The Balocco area, which lies between the Piedmontese rice fields between Novara and Vercelli, is enormous: it contains a total of 26 tracks, including off-road tracks, and a high-speed ring with raised bends, 7.8 km long, longer than Indianapolis.

But the original Balocco track, and the most important one, is the track known as the “Misto Alfa”. A 5.6 km circuit made up of 19 corners and two very long straights. According to the habits of the time, all the most famous and demanding curves of the European tracks were reproduced on the Balocco track. There is a turn that copies the mythical Lesmo of Monza and a twisty path that reproduces a part of the Zandvoort circuit, including the famous Tarzan hairpin.

Balocco has weaned all of the most famous Alfa Romeo racing cars of the last fifty years. The Alfa Romeo Formula 1 of the late 70’s took its first steps with drivers like Brambilla and Giacomelli at the wheel. In Balocco the legendary Alfa Turismo of the 60s and 70s, such as the Giulia T2 and GTA driven by De Adamich, Giunti, Nanni and Zeccoli, were launched. And Balocco was also the home of the Alfa Romeo 33 TT12, the “barchetta” that gave Alfa the World Championship for Makes title in 1975. The latest Alfa Romeo World Title. It was the same car that Kimi Räikkönen found surprisingly on display in front of the Balocco farmhouse, where the Autodelta racing department also used to be located and where the engineer Carlo Chiti had his own office.

When Räikkönen saw the car, his eyes lit up. “Did it really have a 12-cylinder engine?” he asked. Then he approached the Alfa 33, opened the door and climbed on board to the driver’s seat. Nodding to Giovinazzi to join him. He tinkered for a while in the cockpit looking for the start button but was then told that the 33 had no fuel in the tank and therefore he had to give up turning it on. “I wanted to hear the rumble of the 12-cylinder engine, it’s an exciting sound. When I started in F1 there were still the V10 engines and I remember well the scream they made!” Kimi Räikkönen, despite being the oldest and most experienced driver on the F1 grid, knows little or nothing about Alfa Romeo’s history. And a visit to Balocco helped him to immerse himself in Alfa’s glorious past and understand how prestigious this brand was in the past. “I never owned an Alfa Romeo: my first car, when I was young, was a Lada; but I have driven one because one of my cousins had an Alfa Romeo. My most vivid memory of the Alfa brand is linked to the car in the DTM: the mid-1990s four-wheel drive 155. I was a teenager, I saw them running on TV. They were impressive.”

Räikkönen’s competitive past, on the other hand, is linked to the Sauber brand. It was with the Swiss single-seater that Kimi made his debut in F1. In a private test at Mugello in 2001 when he was just 21 years old. It is said that he went so fast that even Schumacher, engaged on the track with Ferrari that same day, asked around who was that boy in the Sauber that had impressed him. Räikkönen, however, puts away that episode. “I heard this story but I wasn’t aware of it. I was much more worried because that year they didn’t want to grant me the F1 superlicence because they said that I didn’t have enough experience (Kimi had only 23 races to his credit in Formula Ford and Formula Renault before the jump in F1). It annoyed me a lot. Luckily after the good result of the first race in Australia (6th place) I got the final one”.

In October Räikkönen will become the third driver of the modern era to race in F1 at the age of 40 after Schumacher and Mansell. 40 years old, but he doesn’t show it at all. Neither physically nor characterically. You can see that the distance from the stressful Ferrari environment made him reborn. It gave him a new serenity that made him rejuvenate mentally.

“Here at Alfa Romeo the environment is certainly more relaxed, we are focused on the racing aspect and not on the collateral things. I still enjoy racing and that’s the important thing.” Räikkönen also discovered a curious detail that links him to Giovinazzi, his new teammate: “Antonio once raced in Formula 3 for me. I was the owner of the team that gave him a car! We are talking about five or six years ago, when among my various activities I owned a team in English F3 called ‘Double R’ which were the initials of my name and my manager, Robertson. For some races an Italian driver ran for us: Giovinazzi. But I didn’t really know him and in the following years I had never noticed this coincidence: it was him who reminded me of that when we met in Ferrari. And now we find ourselves in this Alfa Romeo F1”. Already grandfather and grandson…

With the help of “grandfather” Räikkönen, Antonio Giovinazzi will try to hurry up his apprenticeship in Formula One. At Balocco, Antonio was certainly more at home than Kimi; yet he seemed less relaxed than his team-mate because he knows he’s up for a big career chance in 2019. Giovinazzi owes everything to Marchionne who wanted him in Ferrari as third driver two years ago and to Arrivabene who last October took advantage of the Ferrari option which, as engine supplier, had the right to choose one of the two drivers of the Sauber team who became Alfa Romeo. Now Antonio will have to deserve the trust and the weight of the responsibility to represent the return of an Italian driver in F1 eight years after Trulli and Liuzzi, “It will be a great responsibility for me to debut in F1 with a name as important as Alfa Romeo but there is also the pride of representing after many years an all-Italian pair in F1. Really a lot of stuff. ”

Giovinazzi knows that the team behind him is strong, solid, ambitious and growing. “If we look at the previous season we have to realize that in the end Sauber-Alfa really did a top championship: it had started the season in the back of the field and instead ended 2018 constantly finishing in the top ten. So we expect to start this year at the point where we were at the end of 2018, already being in the top ten. And then improve during the season.”

Giovinazzi trusts in the help that Räikkönen will give him: “He is a very strong driver and it gives me confidence to see him charged and enthusiastic about this adventure. He is much more relaxed: I talked to Kimi more in these two months in Alfa Romeo than in two years in Ferrari. I well know he’s an Iceman, but in reality he’s not closed as they say: he’s a guy you can talk to and compare yourself with. In the end I’m really happy to have him on the team for the first year because he’s the most experienced driver there is. From whom could I ever learn more about F1 than from him? Kimi is a very generous guy: he is not one of those drivers who keeps things to himself, who is reluctant to reveal his information. He’s one of those drivers who if you ask him for something, he’ll help you without any problems.

One of the few advantages that Giovinazzi will have in a 2019 all to discover is to debut in a track like Melbourne. The only circuit of the world championship where he has already competed in a GP bringing the Sauber to 12th place in 2017. “Yes, but everything will be different this year. It’s true that it’s an advantage to start from a circuit where I’ve already raced, and I really like it, but the conditions are very different. In 2017 I was practically prefixed on Saturday morning for the GP because of Wehrlein’s injury: I had to jump into the car blindly, I didn’t know Sauber or even the track, I was responsible for starting in F1 in a car that wasn’t mine. The most stressful situation that there can be for a newcomer. This time it will be different: I will finally have time to get ready and discover the car in the winter tests, I will do free practice, I will have my qualifying, I will not be on loan but my car will be customized in every detail for me. And above all, when I get on it in Melbourne, I will already know it well from the kilometres covered in the winter tests. I can’t wait!”

Räikkönen says that he is not a rookie because he already raced two GPs but Antonio instead feels like a pure rookie. What will be the biggest difficulty? “I know almost all the tracks having done here and there free practices, tests and GP2 races. But the stress of the race weekend is completely different from the tests and it is still unknown to me: there is the tension of qualifying, the race and the 70 laps to drive 100%, and then the strategies to follow, the pit stops. These are all experiences that I miss and with which I will have to gradually become familiar. The stress of the race generates tension but it is one of the most beautiful emotions that an F1 driver can experience.” Giovinazzi hasn’t set himself any targets yet: “I don’t set myself a specific position as the minimum result: I want to start calmly and learn from Kimi in the first races, then improve race by race. And maybe take advantage of unforeseen opportunities like those crazy races where anything can happen.”