Kimi Raikkonen’s long road in Formula 1: controversial debut, victories, excesses and a record to come

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His passion was glimpsed from the age of 3. Names of weight complained when they let him reach the category. Then he was in charge of writing big history. And also of the other.

Forty years. A title. Twenty one victories. Eighteen pole positions. One hundred and three podiums. Three hundred and twenty-two Grands Prix that will become 323 this weekend in Germany, to become the driver with the most races contested, displacing the Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.

Kimi Raikkonen is preparing to write one more page in his history with Formula 1, the category to which he arrived without experience and against the will of the then president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), Max Mosley.

The story goes back to Espoo, a city in the metropolitan area of Helsinki of just 312 square kilometers, in which Kimi got on an Italjet motocross bike when he was only 3 years old and where, shortly after, Matti Raikkonen had to get three jobs to pay for your child’s hobby of go-karting.

It was not money that interrupted his motorsports activity, but the compulsory military service that he did for twelve months between 1996 and 1997, after which he embarked on an adventure in single-seaters.

He went to England and raced in British Formula Renault in 1999, concurrent with some Formula Ford races. In 2000, he shone in Formula Renault 2.0 and envisioned a future in Formula 3. But Against any odds, he went straight to F1.

In his first Grand Prix, that of Australia in 2001, he was sixth and joined the select group of debutants who managed to score, such as Alain Prost. The season ended with nine units that helped Clean to be fourth in the constructors’ championship and stood as the successor of Mika Hakkinen. “If you want to win, take the Finn,” the double world champion told him before retiring to Ron Dennis, which took Raikkonen to McLaren.

After a first season in the English team marked by abandonments (11), Raikkonen achieved his first victory in 2003 – the Malaysian GP, ​​second round of the championship – and was world runner-up, just two points behind Michael Schumacher, who then won the sixth of his seven titles.

On the circuit he was already known as Iceman, nickname Dennis gave him. “She is not more than half of what Kimi is, but she precisely defines her professional identity: she comes from a cold climate, drives fast and talks little, explains nothing, does her job to the best of her ability and then moves on to. Kari Hotakainen in the authorized biography “The Unknown Kimi Raikkonen”, published in 2018.

In 2004, Kimi could barely cross the checkered flag first once (in Belgium), while in 2005 He was runner-up again despite his seven victories, thus equaling the sad record of victories without winning the championship of Prost and Schumacher, who had also fought until the end against the Renault of Fernando Alonso.

In 2007, was in charge of replacing Schumacher at Ferrari and the responsibility did not weigh on him. With Felipe Massa As a partner, the Finn joined the gallery of the great pilots in the prancing Horse that they won in their debut career with the Scuderia (Mario Andretti in 1971 and Nigel Mansell in 1989) and who lifted the title in their first season, along with Juan Manuel Fangio (1956) and Jody Scheckter (1979).

He was third in 2008, when Lewis Hamilton won the first of his (for now) six titles, and on November 18, 2009, he was surprising when his agent said that he would not compete in Formula 1 the following year.

Signed with Citröen and he went to try his luck at the World Rally Championship. He scored in five races – his best place was fifth in the Rally Turkey – and equaled the Argentine Carlos Reutemann, until then the only Formula 1 driver to do so. In 2011, also raced NASCAR but nothing replaced F1, to which he returned in 2012 alongside Lotus, one of the emblematic teams of the category.

“In rallies you don’t have a direct opponent, you drive against the clock. When I drove in NASCAR, I realized how much I appreciate the direct duel against other drivers. Thought: ‘Maybe it’s good to have this more often again’. But F1 is the highest category in the eyes of most drivers, so I wondered if it would work again, “he confessed later.

It was in Lotus that he also lived wild years. Silent in front of the microphones but loud off the track, Raikkonen confessed that in 2013 spent 16 days in a row partying and drinking alcohol, between the GP of Bahrain (2nd) and the GP of Spain, where despite that he rose to the podium in second place.

He spent one more season at Lotus -completing two wins, in Abu Dhabi 2012 and Australia 2013- until he returned to Ferrari, back surgery through. “With this type of thing you never know how it will go, since I had had these problems for a long time. Before the operation, I already took care of my back and sometimes it was going well and, sometimes, badly” his worst season in Formula 1: finished 12th, two places below his year as rookie.

Despite this, Ferrari kept him as Sebastian Vettel’s partner until 2018. In those years, he regained pole position after 129 races (Monaco 2017) and to be won after 113 Grands Prix (United States 2018).

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