source: AMuS, 17.12.2021
Kimi Räikkönen is ending his long career. Auto Motor und Sport talked to the 2007 world champion about his new life, his unusual career start, his rally adventure and his cars.
You decided to retire last winter. Was it the first time you had thought about quitting?
Räikkönen: No. I’d already been out of Formula 1 for two years, and even before that I asked myself from time to time whether I still needed the traveling and all the fuss, or whether I shouldn’t be doing something else. But that’s life. You have good days and bad days. One day you think enough is enough, and the next day everything is forgotten.
And what was different this time?
The traveling became too much for me. I was away from home too often. This is my place now. I hate schedules. I’ve lived my whole life according to them. Now I’m looking forward to going into the day without any fixed plans.
Whatever you do, it will be a different life. Are you afraid of that?
I don’t see why? No, I’m looking forward to it. Many people have already predicted to me: If you are at home for half a year, the ceiling will fall on your head. If that’s what happened to them or they feel that bad, then maybe they should find a new home or another family. I love being home and look forward to being able to spend time with my family and do normal things much more often now. My free time is more important to me than anything else.
So you’ve been able to practice this life before?
Yes, a little bit. But even in my rally days, I was traveling. There were fewer events, but they lasted longer.
You keep saying that you don’t have any definite plans yet. But basically, can you keep living from day-to-day, or do you need some kind of challenge?
No, I don’t need a challenge. I can be home for a week without stepping outside the door once and still be a happy person. I really have zero plans. Just the feeling that I don’t have to do this or that anymore gives me pleasure. For now, the focus is on family. Then we’ll see what comes up. There’s no reason to be thinking today about what might interest me in the future.
Mika Häkkinen said two years after his retirement that the hardest experience for him was being just average in normal life, while as a race driver he was always fighting for first place.
What’s wrong with being just average? I’m not the type who is always looking for a challenge even in normal life, or who absolutely wants to be the best in every discipline. Not anymore. Maybe it was like that when I was younger. Everything was a game or a competition then. That’s not my thing anymore.
You were never a man of big or many words. Did it surprise you that you were so popular despite that?
Yes, sure it did. I’ve always said that I do things the way they are best for me. You can try to be someone else for a year or two, but then you don’t enjoy your life anymore. For me, it was always important to give myself as I am. I never told people what they wanted to hear just to please them. Some people like that, others don’t. In my case, obviously some people liked that.
So why did you start opening up on social media platforms?
A friend of mine does that. Whatever appears on it is my decision. I also do it quite rarely. In fact, I thought about it for a long time. After all, it does no harm and can be used in many ways.
Is a career like yours still possible today? In your case, it was the stopwatch that decided at Mugello, not some junior program.
I think it’s still possible. Today, there are probably more young drivers trying to get into Formula 1 than back then, and places are still limited. Teams follow talents much more intensively today than they did in my day. If you’re fast in karting, you have a better chance of being discovered and accepted into a program than back then. Today, every team has a development program like that. But it’s still a long way from there. And a lot can still happen before you reach Formula 1.
To this day, you are the driver who entered Formula 1 with the fewest races. Today, you are the driver with the most Formula 1 starts. Would you ever have thought that?
I moved quickly from karting to Formula 1. It took me maybe two years. Of that, one full season. I drove 23 races before my first Grand Prix, so almost nothing. Today you can’t get a license for that. And you have to be at least 18 years old. So it’s impossible to do that again. Today they push you into a path that costs you a lot of money. So I was really lucky. Also that I had people around me who had connections to Formula 1. On top of that, the timing was right. Of course, I also had to perform when it mattered. All in all, a lot of pieces of the puzzle had to be put in place correctly. Without my managers, I would never have had a chance of getting a place.
You almost missed your GP debut in Melbourne. The team had to look for you because you didn’t show up in the garage. Have you always been this cool?
I was just tired. That happens to me often. When I was younger, I could sleep anywhere, anytime. It doesn’t work so well now that I’m older. It’s not that unusual actually. Rally drivers often sleep between stages, too.
Do you have any regrets? Should you have gone to a certain team earlier, later or not at all?
Not really. I wouldn’t change anything about my career, even if it meant winning more races or world championships. When you start thinking like that, it can go the other way. You change one step in your career, and the whole career changes. Maybe I wouldn’t even be sitting here with you anymore. I’m at peace with myself. And if something was bad in hindsight, I can live with it just fine.
Which of your many Formula 1 cars did you enjoy the most?
The good cars. Because you can race for wins in them.
Which one has been the most demanding for you?
No car is good enough that it doesn’t challenge you. If you stay one second under the limit, all the cars are easy to drive. There are no difficult tracks either. The challenge only comes with the limit. No matter in which car, on which track. I find it difficult to define what the word “difficult” means in the context of driving a car. Every car, good or bad, has its downsides.
In terms of fun, perhaps the cars of the mid-2000s were the best. But it may also be that in memory, everything was always better in the past. Sure, today’s cars are bigger, heavier and more cumbersome, but they also have more grip and are faster. To make a fair judgment, I’d have to sit in a car from the past for ten laps and then in one from today for ten laps. Then the choice might be different. Maybe I’d say: Shit, the car from back then isn’t as great as I remember.
Have you collected your race cars?
I only have the Ferrari with which I won my last race in 2018. But it’ s drivable. I would need help to start it, though.
Do you collect your trophies?
Most of them, yes. At the beginning at McLaren, I had to hand in the originals, but I got replicas. They are somewhere in a storage room in boxes. I think one of them is in my office. But now I have time. At some point, maybe I’ll get them out and put them somewhere.
Which teammate was the hardest to beat?
They were all difficult to beat. Each in their own way. I was certainly a bit faster at 20 than I was at 40. I think the overall package plays the decisive role. There were years when my teammate was faster, and then I was quicker. There’s no pattern there. I can’t say that anyone stands out completely.
Would you have competed for the rally championship if you had started your career there?
I’d like to say that’s what would have happened. When I drove my first 1000 Lakes Rally as a rookie in 2009 in a Fiat, I was in third place before I rolled over. I didn’t even do the pacenotes myself. I think experience is even more important in rallying than on the race track. There you know the tracks. In rallying, everything is always new. The track, the grip. You only have the pacenotes.
On a rally test track which you know inside out, you might be as fast as the best. But a real rally is a different story. I was close to the point where I could drive blindly by the notes. That’s the key. As a rookie, I always had to think first after something was read out to me. A mistake is punished very differently than it is here. Then you’re lying on the roof or hit an object. It’s also the case in rallying that there are many very good drivers who never became world champions.
What did you learn for Formula 1 from your rallying intermezzo?
Most of all, concentration. It’ s much more intense in a rally car. Because you’re always confronted with new things. It doesn’t matter what motorsport you do, whether it’s karting or motocross. It always helps and never hurts. Unfortunately, we have so many races, so there’s no time to drive anything else alongside.
When you switched from Ferrari to Sauber, it must have been clear to you that you would no longer be racing for victories. Was that hard to accept?
There were years when I didn’t win anything, even with the top teams. You always have to aim for what’s possible and make sure you have fun racing. When you’re younger, you might think about it a little differently. I had my wins and my world championship. If I had a problem with that, I wouldn’t have signed with Sauber. I’m not doing anything different than before. They give me a car and I drive it as fast as I can. For us, a sixth or seventh place is a victory. As long as you remain a realist, that’s not a problem.
How do you want people to remember you?
However they want. It doesn’t change what happened and what is ahead of me.