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.”

KR7 – The Last Emperor

At the Abu Dhabi GP, Sky Sport Italia did their last interview with Kimi Räikkönen as Ferrari driver.

video: KR7 L’ultimo imperatore


Q: Kimi, in your life you have taken many challenges. Today I will take a challenge in this interview. I will try to make you emotional. Is it going to be difficult?

Kimi: Good luck then!

Q: Was your team able to make you emotional with this t-shirt and the party?

Yeah it was a nice surprise. I knew just a bit earlier because we didn’t go directly from the airport to the hotel. But it was nice. I don’t think it’s sad that I go to another team. Obviously it will be different but there is nothing sad, we have had good times and that is why no one should be sad. I’m excited where I’m going and they are excited what they are getting. So I think it’s for both of us new challenges. And this is nice. And I was bit surprised to get such t-shirts.

Q: You were speaking of Sauber. Thinking about it, is it not like leaving a long-time girlfriend for a young one?

No, no. And I’m not planning to do that. Obviously I left Ferrari once before so it isn’t a new thing for me. Obviously it was different circumstances at that time, now it’s a different story. It’s time to do something else and I’m very excited. It’s part of life, go for new challenges. We have all got good memories, I won the championship with Ferrari, that doesn’t happen often. So I’m in a special group of people. We also won two times the team championship. I think we have great memories, also some not that great but that’s part of the game. I think after those [bad moments are gone], being there is even better. We will see what happens in the future.

Q: Thinking of that red shirt, what does it mean to you? Because more than once you told us what responsibility it is wearing it.

Yeah, I think it is. It’s obvious that Ferrari is different than any other team, people are very passionate about it, especially Italians. Wherever you go in the world, they know Ferrari. There is also a more political, more Italian way of seeing things.

Q: Are you saying that there is too much passion?

Not too much but a lot sometimes. Sometimes it could be a little bit less, sometimes it’s perfect. In a weird way we fit well together. I’m different than Italians but it seemed to work pretty ok. Obviously, the next years will be different but we all stay friends. I think this is more important than simply working together. We will still see each other in the paddock every race weekend so there won’t be much difference.

Q: Thinking about that special passion at Ferrari, do you think there is a negative point?

I don’t know. Like I said it’s different. Each team is different than the others. I have been lucky because I drove for Swiss, English and Italian teams. Each team represents a different culture, a different nation and a different way of living everyday life. Some are more passionate, Italians are more on that side. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing, just different. I think all of those teams where I have been, tried to achieve the same result in different ways because they have different nationality. Maybe sometimes there is a bit too much fuss around this team, but I don’t think if you try to run an Italian team like Ferrari in English way it would work. There are always good things and bad things, in everything in life. What’s different with Ferrari is the attention of the people, fans and the media, they are very critical. If we do well, it’s a great thing and everybody is a hero. But then if we don’t win, media can be very hard with Ferrari and I think that’s what creates the biggest pressure for Ferrari, more than any other team. For us winning is great and if we don’t win we are not happy but it doesn’t change the way we work just because we are in Ferrari. When other teams do bad they don’t get such a hard time from the media. But that is also special thing. It’s not something that happens to most people, it can be but you get used to it and that’s how it goes.

Q: Nobody else after you has won the driver championship with Ferrari. Are you proud about that?

For sure I’m proud about winning the championship and also being part of two constructors titles.  I would have wanted to win more but it didn’t happen. I wish them all the best and I’m sure somebody will win at some point, maybe in the near future. I think any result or record that you achieve is not made to last, there will always be someone who can beat it. That’s how life goes. I’m proud to be part of the Ferrari history and of what I have done in my career, it’s something I will always carry with me, also now I’m getting a bit older. It’s nice thing to look at but right now I’m not really thinking of those.

Q: You have experienced two different eras in Ferrari, Montezemolo, Todt and Domenicali and then Maurizio Arrivabene and Sergio Marchionne. Were there differences?

Yeah for sure there is always something. The team has changed, the way of doing things has changed but that’s normal. Looking back 15 years ago it was a different sport in many ways, not just racing and how to try to achieve the result but how it’s been evolving, we have to put more effort into small things. I really enjoyed obviously with Jean Todt, he was team principal when I came, it was great. He is a great guy and remains a friend. He is doing a different job now but luckily we see each other quite often during race weekends. That was great. Then I don’t know how many team principals I had, many you know (laughs).

Q: Maybe too many.

Yeah but that’s how it went through and I think right now with Maurizio it’s great. I think he is absolutely the right person to bring Ferrari where it deserves and the people that are involved. Without the changes I wouldn’t be here. When I came back in 2014 Ferrari wasn’t the strongest place to be, I knew that when I signed. I expected that it’s going to be hard times. I knew what I would get myself into and it didn’t bother me at all. If you look from then to today, the team has come a long way. It was hard, not always the happiest times. It’s definitely going in the right direction. All the people in the team from Maurizio down have worked hard for this improvement. I’m happy to see, for sure it’s going the right way and better results are coming. It’s different every year.

Q: And thinking about your different team mates..

Yeah obviously I had. I had Fisichella, Badoer, many guys.

Q: Who was the most difficult?

They are all different. Taking one out of all of them is impossible. Sometimes they do better than you, sometimes you do better than them. They are all good drivers, there is no doubt, some are better than others but in the end the championship will tell where everybody fits in. If right or not, who knows? Everybody has their own opinion. I think in many ways I’m happy that I had so many different team mates, they all have been great people and I have no bad feelings about any of them.

Q: Do your kids already have shirt and cap from Alfa Romeo Sauber?

No, but I bought a suit, only one for now.

Q: Maybe you are not the right person to ask. But do you have an advice for a young driver like Charles who is about to wear that shirt and feel that pressure?

Obviously it will be different from Sauber but he knows the people already. When I came to Ferrari I had no idea on many things. He has been part of Ferrari for a long time so it will be much easier for him. Of course it’s a different team, more people but he knows what to expect and I have no doubt that he will do well. How well the future will show.

Q: If you had to choose one memory, one photo of your Ferrari career to show to Robin, which would it be?

I don’t know. There are a lot of pictures. I’m sure he will find out when he gets older.

Q: Maybe the photo of your title?

I don’t know, honestly. You can’t pick, there are a lot of pictures. Luckily he will remember a lot of things when he gets older. And he has watched me racing at the track and that’s the best part of it. There is also Rianna, we will see if she will also remember.

Q: Thank you for everything!

No worries.


Beat Zehnder: “It was sympathy at first sight!”

Beat Zehnder and Kimi Räikkönen 2001 in Montreal.

Beat Zehnder (52), the long-serving Sauber team manager, spoke with SonntagsBlick about his Finnish buddy.

Beat Zehnder and Kimi Räikkönen 2001 in Montreal. (© Antti Puskala)

When did you meet Kimi Räikkönen for the first time?
In September 2000 at his first test for us. In Mugello, on probably the most difficult test track in the world.

Your first impression?
Honestly, I can’t really remember. There was just a slim boy standing there and he was quick right away. That surprised everyone – and is very rare in Formula 1.

So it was sympathy at first sight with the racing driver Räikkönen?
You could call it that. We knew immediately that we had a great driver in the team. I had to talk to him a lot because he had no idea and the Formula 1 regulations are almost as thick as the Bible.

That was all?
No. Our physio Josef Leberer had to get him fit first. I mean really fit.

Kimi scored nine World Championship points in the first year, which would correspond to 52 points in today’s standings …
Yeah, that was sensational. And our relationship got better and better. Kimi could always trust me – until today. That’s why we are perhaps the best Formula 1 buddies.

So one reason why Kimi now wants to get rid of the Ferrari pain at Sauber …
Because of me, Kimi certainly doesn’t extend his career. He just wants to race and have fun. He believes in the team, sees that it’s going up, and an important point is technical director Simone Resta, whom he knows from Ferrari.

Where and when did the decisive talks take place?
I don’t like to talk about these things. But team boss Frédéric Vasseur and I went to Kimi’s house in Baar twice after Monza. Later, Fred made the contract with him.

Your sympathy for Kimi will last forever …
I hope so. We are often together privately, have a chat and we have never lied to each other. That is very rare in our sport.

How many Sauber people from 2001 are still at the race track?
Three. Physio Josef Leberer, the brake specialist Bruno Rohr and me.

Bruno Rohr and Jo Leberer
Bruno Rohr and Jo Leberer (© Lukas Gorys)

Your shock moments with Kimi in the Sauber 2001?
There was Imola, when he suddenly only held the steering wheel in his hands at full speed. Kimi didn’t brake, but tried to re-engage the steering wheel with the quick lock. And in Suzuka he had the worst accident when the rear suspension broke and he crashed into Alesi’s Jordan. Fortunately, he remained uninjured.


Gazzetta dello Sport, 10.11.2018Kimi interview Gazzetta dello Sport 11.10.2018

Kimi, eight seasons and a world championship in Maranello: “It doesn’t matter to me how I will be remembered, in life I have done what I wanted, that counts. And in Sauber I will have fun.

A victory and another ten podiums, “just” 48 points gap to Sebastian Vettel whom Ferrari has elected since his engagement in 2015 as top driver.
At the age of 39, 2018 proved to be Kimi Räikkönen’s best season since he agreed to return to Maranello five years ago, where he had been removed to make way for Alonso. So why not confirm him? Because Ferrari has exercised the right/duty to think about the future which certainly cannot be represented by a driver born in 1979. And they (rightly) preferred Charles Leclerc, 10 years younger than Vettel.

But Ferrari has had for Kimi, who in recent years was asked for sacrifices (remember Monaco 2017?), a soft spot, favoring the agreement with Sauber, that for Maranello is in fact a satellite team.
It will be because of the victory in the US, the first after 5 years, or because Räikkönen is made this way, but we meet him in the paddock of Interlagos, in good mood, smiling, sometimes lively, talking about the past, present and future, of racing and also a bit of private Kimi.

Let’s start from the success in Texas: that victory has changed the perspective on your second adventure with Ferrari?

Winning is always a pleasure but it does not change my life or the perception how my time was here. I proved to still be able to win and it’s enough for me.

But you lost the title: there was talk of errors of the driver, the fault of the car and the team. What idea did you make?

Hamilton has got more points than us and therefore deserved the success. If you ask around here, everyone has their own recipe of what would have done differently, it would spring an endless discussion. I think the team understood how it should have acted, even if there is no certainty that the result would have been different.

How could you sum up your second experience with Ferrari?

Difficult. There have been a lot of changes in these five years and I think the right path has been taken in the last three. But now Ferrari is in good hands.

Are you referring to Arrivabene?

He’s the best boss I’ve ever had. He is the right man for this job and he is doing it well.

Certainly when you returned to Maranello, in 2014 you were perhaps the protagonist of your worst season in Formula 1.

I knew I would find an environment neither easy nor nice. And that it would be tough. So for me it was not a surprise.

Do you have something to suggest to Leclerc that will happen?

No, because I am convinced that there are already so many people doing it. I hope he can enjoy and get good results. Obviously he arrives in a different place but he will soon get used to it.

After Schumacher, you are the driver who has raced for the longest time in Ferrari, eight seasons in total (2007-09, 2014-18). You won only one title, but it’s still a great achievement.

It’s certainly a privilege because in any corner of the world they know what Ferrari is, they know its history, its tradition. Being part of it has made me proud.

Sauber, McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus. You have driven for these teams.

And it was a great enrichment because I got to know closely the way of work of Swiss, English and Italians. The target to be reached is the same, but the way to get there is different.

Now at age 40 you return to Sauber in a midfield team. It takes a lot of courage.

Why? I wouldn’t bet now on who will be first or second next year. Why should I be afraid to go to Sauber? My intention is to try to help them do well and have fun. When I returned to F1 with Lotus, people said that I had made a mistake, that I would not gain anything, and instead things went differently. It could happen again, right?

So you are still not tired of traveling the world?

In fact I would be happier staying at home rather than locked in a plane. But I continue to like racing and it’s the only reason why I will do it again next year. And then at Sauber I will be able to concentrate more on what I really love: driving.

You are very active on social media, love posting family images. What kind of father are you?

Well you should ask my children! Certainly they are not happy when I leave for the races. Robin is used to it now, he knows that I’ll be back, little Rianna still not. But she will understand. I am happy to be with them when I can and they are in a very carefree phase of life.”

At the track you always look rather phlegmatic, at home you never lose patience?

For sure, it’s normal. Even here, not everything is as I would like it. But I see no reason to get angry at small things, it would just be a waste of time.

Your radio messages are often funny, “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing” made you even more popular.
“Let’s clarify one thing: sometimes we seem angry when we talk to the team because we raise our voices, but in reality we do it only because we fear we are not being heard. Communicating by radio is not an exercise as easy as one can believe from the outside. Here, even in that case many saw something negative, while the team had understood well the meaning of those words (such as to make a t-shirt, ed.) and had acted accordingly.

How would you like to be remembered in F.1?

I don’t care at all to be remembered or not. I realized what I wanted to do in life and it’s the thing that matters, I don’t care what others think.

Is it true that you are fond of sweets?

Yes, in Finland we make very good ones.

Tell us what attracted you to your wife?

I met her for the first time on one occasion where there were several people, we started to joke, I made her laugh. We started talking and from there everything was born.

Are you jealous?

Who? Me? I would not say I am, why should I be? If those who are with you want something else in life, you can have it.

You have a motocross team: when you stop, will you take care of it yourself?

Ah, but that is already happening, I’m involved six days a week. I divide the tasks with some friends but I know everything and I take most of the decisions. For sure when I will stop, I will go more often to the races but I won’t fly everywhere. I will want to stay more with my family, even if my son really likes motocross, to the point that he is already driving.

You have a lot of cars and motorbikes at home. Which one you love more?

It’s not like I have so many. In Finland I have a few old ones that I have restored. I own a Ferrari but I do not use it very often, I usually use the Jeep. But I use the car basically to go to the airport and to go to the supermarket. But if I have to go for a walk in the city, I use the bike which is faster. I’m no longer interested in cars like I once was.