324.

It has a magical figure from which the formula people roar over the weekend.

About Kimi Räikkönen officially baked at the Nürburgring by the most experienced F1 driver ever. Few would have thought that today would come ten years ago, when Räikkönen left the world of formulas.

Many things have changed over the years. Like Räikkönen himself and his fans.

Iron professional

Becoming a statistical leader does not move Räikkö much. As the Iceman himself acknowledged, every record is sometimes broken.

Iltalehti’s F1 expert Jyrki Järvilehto does not take Räikkönen’s achievement as disparagingly. For him, the number of races speaks of the appreciation of Räikkönen’s professionalism.

– Kimi has always enjoyed driving, but the stables don’t just take anyone to their ranks. Räikkönen has been a clear choice for his team for almost 20 years.

Räikkönen, 40, has driven in the F1 series for 18 seasons. Most of them he has faced in the top teams in the series. It’s a tough merit, as Ferrari and McLaren don’t go for money or a strong personal brand.

The secret of Räikkönen’s record-breaking career lies in two things.

The first is the ability to regenerate.

– Kim is asked how she has changed since the beginning of her F1 career. But in exactly the same way, you can get that from me. Who among us would not have changed in 20 years? Järvilehto chuckles.

– At a young age, above all, it takes a lot of enthusiasm. Later, things learn to think differently. That must have happened to Kim too.

As a driver, this is clearly visible. During its McLaren years in the 21st century, Räikkö was widely regarded as the fastest driver of the entire F1 circus. Today, fan glasses have to sit pretty tightly with your eyes, if that’s what you claim.

The story continues after the picture.

Räikkönen’s strengths are elsewhere.

– Above all, Kimi is an intelligent driver. He has learned to know his weaknesses and utilize his strengths, Järvilehto experiences.

For this reason, Järvilehto sees Räikkönen at his best in his Lotus years in 2012 and 2013. He still had plenty of speed familiar from the McLaren years, but he forged the result above all with his sensible strategic solutions.

Something had changed when F1 and Räikkönen had been separated for two years.

That was the other thing that enabled a record-breaking F1 career.

The rally years changed

At the beginning of the 2010 season, Finnish F1 fans woke up to a new kind of reality. Our admiring formula star was admired but also in places.

Räikkönen’s absence from the starting grid made the people wake up to his value.

When the return to rally formula formulations then took place in 2012, many sighed in relief.

That’s when something also happened in the attitude of the general public towards Räikkö.

To put it bluntly, it can be said that Räikkönen’s straightforwardness and, in some places, his rude behavior began to be treated more acceptingly than before. Negative traits became part of the Iceman’s popularity.

– I have a similar itch, although of course no factual basis can be given for this. But it seems that the things Kim was laughing at or even resenting were suddenly seen as fun and cooleina, Research Director, Sponsor Insights Klaus Virkkunen describes.

Räikkönen’s return comes at a time when social media made a strong breakthrough. The distinctive behavior of the Finn and his sayings, which were twisted into memes, were a great fuel to feed his popularity.

Sponsor Insights publishes an annual survey of the most popular Finnish athletes. Räikkönen has been high on the list from year to year.

Over the last ten years, the investment has been fourth at its weakest. It happened in 2011, when Räikkönen drove a rally instead of formulas.

The Finn has become a marketers’ dream on the some and on traditional platforms. Räikkönen’s image makes it easy to sell both alcoholic beverages and biographies. Everything Kimi touches seems to turn to gold.

An old covenant man

Why is Kimi so popular?

Virkkunen summarizes the answer in a form that does not need to be explained.

– People are always interested.

– F1 is a popular sport and Kimi is a successful athlete. Along with personality, success is an explanatory factor. However, in Kim’s case, success has not mattered for so long, Virkkunen continues.

Herself. Honest. Usual.

In these words, Räikkönen’s fans describe their idol. The Finnish contrast to all other drivers is huge.

– Kimi is like a breeze from old time formulas. He doesn’t take himself and the formula world so seriously, but he enjoys pure racing, Virkkunen says.

Räikkönen’s rally years changed his fans, but also Räikkönen himself. This is how Järvilehto believes.

– At that time, Kim’s life was not easy. The Ferrari years had proved painful, so the opportunity to get to try something else came in handy. Kimi got to do something he enjoyed, and maybe he got to think about new things. At least the flame towards the formulas ignited again.

From Rooster to Iceman

Today, Räikkönen can be expected to provide short and boring comments to media inquiries. That was not the case before.

Where the awkwardness fits Räikkönen’s current brand, it was seen as a cock at the mouth of the younger formula star.

The arrogance of the young man still evokes strong emotions.

Max Verstappenilla has had a similar style. He, too, says things directly and is snarling, which is why some hate him. But he also succeeds, which justifies big words. Actions must respond to speeches, Virkkunen reminds.

On the track, Räikkönen may no longer be the all-time amazing driver, but he gets admiration for his other merits. He is the support and security on which Alfa Romeo is good to build.

F1 doesn’t miss one man, but something is different on the day when Räikkönen finally ends his career. Räikkönen will not be forgotten by the formula people.

– Kimi is going to be one of the most popular drivers ever, just throwing. He may not rise high on the lists that rank the best drivers of all time, but he will be talked about long after his career ends, Virkkunen assures.