There are some men who are born to delight in different ways. Some take to music, other’s go and do movies and make the red carpet redder with power and charisma. Those whose artistic flair lies outside the canvass of imagination or beyond the lair of being a wordsmith, do something recklessly different. In the thrilling world of sport there lies a bevy of exhilarating world talents whose skills have raised the barometer’s of greatness in Soccer, Tennis, Golf, Basketball and even Cricket.
But enjoying a different lap of attention away from the fizzy romance of world’s most loved sports, there are some men who have a rather sedate way of inspiring awe. A select few risk their lives to make a living. These special specie of awe inspiring talent are known to combat speed and master the most cunning and notoriously clever racing maneuvers like nobody’s business. They take to racing cars and pump up the adrenaline in a way few can imagine or replicate. Kimi Matias Raikkonen, known as Kimster now aged 36 happens to be one of them. The meteoric star of the most deadly yet ecstatic sport also the most expensive sporting spectacle in the world is on the verge of completing his 15th Formula One season in the pinnacle of Motorsport and he is not done yet.
A competitive and supremely talented racing driver
In the glittering world of Formula One where drivers’ salaries count as much as their race records, Kimi’s astonishing talent has counted for maximum punch on both counts. In 2008, an year after he became Ferrari’s World Champion, he was featured in Forbes Magazine’s 100 celebrity list as one of the two drivers from Formula One world to be the highest paid celebrity in the entire world. The other racing driver, Fernando Alonso, Double World Champion in 2003 and 2005 also happened to be Kimi’s 2014 teammate at Ferrari, the Maranello based outfit. Kimi has teamed up with many talented drivers and remained unscathed of their more experienced envelope that always threatened to thwart his appeal.
Starting out in Formula One’s immensely competitive grind way back in 2001 in Peter Sauber’s Sauber racing team, Raikkonen matured and found his true calling at Ron Dennis’ McLaren, a team once many aspired to race under but sadly a name that is finding itself wanting in today’s vastly transformed hybrid engine- era of 2015.
Right at the start of his career, Raikkonen supported by German Nick Heidfeld ( currently in Formula Electric) powered Sauber to finish 4th on the Constructor’s standing. His raw speed and immense potential to accelerate from the world go found him in the middle of the action during his McLaren years from 2002-2006. He had already secured 4 podium finishes in 2002, his second year in Grand prix racing. The feat has not yet been matched by those his age including Jenson Button. As early as 2003, only his third year in F1 he nearly nailed the World Championship by finishing 2nd overall in an immensely competitive year fought with rivals – 7 time World Championship winner Michael Schumacher(Germany) and Giancarlo Fisichella (Switzerland). Kimi’s 91 points in the year were a significant leap over his 24th collected in a challenging 2002 season. With every driver there are both fans and critics, but in Kimi’s life there have been more fans than that of rivals and the “Flying Finn” rewarded their faith in his abilities by standing once again 2nd on the podium at the end of his McLaren season in 2005.
The Ferrari years (2007-2009)
If the Espoo born Kimi Raikkonen’s McLaren years were known for his reluctance to give way under pressure, then his Ferrari stint will be known for his clinical domination in 2007 season. To this day Kimi Raikkonen remains Ferrari’s last world champion, grabbing the driver’s title in the gripping 2007 season.
In the final race of the 2007 F1 season Kimi entered the Interlagos circuit (Brazil) standing third in the overall rankings, behind main title contender and rival Lewis Hamilton. By the time the 70 plus lap racing fest had finished, Raikkonen had squeezed past Lewis to claim his maiden world championship crown. In so doing, he became the only driver in the history of Formula One to win the driver’s championship for Ferrari in his debut year. Even racing greats such as Schumacher (Germany) and Alain Prost (France) haven’t managed what Finland’s Flying Finn achieved. He stole the championship crown with only 6 victories out of 17 races and collected 110 points to win the title fight in the final stage at Sao Paolo. Calm and simply quiet sans the irrational exuberance his contemporaries are known to display while winning the grand crown, Raikkonen only just smiled at the presentation ceremony and displayed a tacit reluctance to rub his win on the face of the defeated, a trademark style of one of F1’s most honest and authentic character’s out there. He does celebrate after all, by not wasting the Champagne flown carelessly by others on fans and the audience. Our man simply gulps it down.
2008 wasn’t such a remarkable year for Kimi and he could hardly impress those who expected him to repeat 2007’s grand performance but he was back in 2009, his final year for Ferrari then and also his last before the Finn took a sabbatical from F1 for two years.
2009 Brazilian Grand Prix
In 2009’s Brazilian Grand Prix where he qualified fifth and finished sixth, Raikkonen once again displayed his charismatic verve of cool and undaunted will to succeed despite suffering at the hands of compatriot Heikki Kovalainnen in the pits. Whilst getting his Ferrari’s front wing changed, the dripping fuel from Heikki’s car in front of Kimi burst into flames leaving the latter’s Ferrari in a stoke of fire. Despite having fuel in his eyes, Raikkonen continued to race and finished inside top 10, accumulating points when others would have retired from the race. A driver known to hold his nerve whilst others are losing theirs in the heat of the moment Kimi’s calm and collected aura inspires many to emulate the great racing driver.
The Iceman who is also known as the King of Spa
It is for his amazing grace under pressure and a special ability to bounce back when none expect him to that he is called the Iceman. There are all kinds of circuits in F1, some that make overtaking an easy maneuver such the Grand Prix’s of Bahrain, Austria and USA.
Then there are circuits that ignite a racing fest for fans and drivers alike given the test they impose on driver’s who are needed to do more than expected to squeeze past their contestants. Raikkonen, for long has fancied triumphing in the testing circuits of Suzuka (Japan), Monte Carlo( Monaco) and Spa Francorchamps( Belgium). Not only is his record phenomenal at all three circuits but some of his finest victories have come at these masterly racing tracks that demand nothing but the extraordinary from drivers. In 2005, Raikkonen who had dropped off to 17th toward the back of the grid at Japan in his McLaren blazed past Fisichella in the final lap of the competition to win what many call his greatest race. At Monaco, he has secured not once but on three occasions fastest laps, one with his despicable Ferrari of 2014 season. But by winning at Belgium on 4 occasions, the most by any driver since Schumacher, especially by displaying extraordinary command at overtaking at high speed corners and turns such as Eu Reuge and Les Combe, Kimi has deservingly earned the moniker “King of Spa”.
He has won twice here with an underpowered McLaren and twice with his ferociously paced Ferrari’s.
WRC and return to F1
In the two years away from F1, Raikkonen changed the racing surface for his talent but didn’t lose the motivation to compete. He competed in World Rallying Championship in 2010 and 2011 and won a Rally in Europe in what he described, “Racing against the clock”. He further went to NASCAR and even raced on Trucks to get his kick. He was to further establish an iconic Ice One racing team from his own money back in Finland, nurturing future racing talents.
In 2012 just when nobody predicted the return of this domineering talent, the “Iceman” came back to F1. Securing a deal with Team Lotus and driving alongside Frenchman Romain Grosjean, Raikkonen came back and did the unthinkable. He not only won a race year upon resumption of his F1 career but stood 3rd on the F1 driver’s chart toward the end, with a vastly underpowered Lotus Renault, a mediocre car as compared to Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull and Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari. At Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit, Kimi made most of Hamilton’s gearbox failure to hold on to the lead and when “disturbed” by race engineer who told him to watch of Alonso who was fast catching up in his Ferrari, he shouted- “Leave me alone I know what am doing”. The next day, these iconic lines were found emblazoned on t shirts, mugs and other retail articles, doing no harm to Raikkonen’s popularity.
In 2013 he suffered a great deal of back ache and despite that won the season opener at Melbourne and rose from 13th at Singapore to finish 3rd. But while his return to Ferrari in 2014 was being looked at with immense promise, where his partnership with Alonso was expected to have given F1 followers a rise in their mojo, out on racing tracks the Fire- Ice combination imploded.
2015 at Ferarri
There aren’t many exciting sights in F1 other than that of seeing Kimi Raikkonen pulling out an ace in his red powered Ferrari. 2015’s hybrid car powered with better aerodynamic packaging and superior car handling has reinstated power and belief in Kimi who struggled frantically in 2014. Since Alonso’s departure for Honda McLaren in 2015, Raikkonen has stayed back to partner Sebastian Vettel in helping Ferrari bounce back from its terrible last season.
At the moment, things couldn’t be better for last year’s trouble- plagued Ferrari whose last World Champion (from 2007) Kimi Raikkonen is scoring points consistently whilst standing in top 4 in driver’s standings, a tremendous improvement over 2014’s 12th place finish. Not many remember that when he was asked at Suzuka in Japan last year whether Ferrari would bounce back in 2015 Kimi responded, “For sure”.
After Mercedes, powered by dynamic duo- Hamilton and Rosberg, it is Raikkonen and Vettel’s supremely quick Ferrari that’s commanding race wins.
Kimi has himself driven flying laps at Canada and Bahrain this year in his Ferrari and has finished with 2 podium finishes as compared to none last year. Giving potent support to Sebastian Vettel, who is the most visible threat to Nico Rosberg, Merc’s second best driver after the imposing but triumphant Hamilton, it remains to be seen what the straight talking and good looking Iceman can do with 4 more races to go before the season folds up.
Drivers, there are many but not all match up to Kimi’s high standards. His astonishing success marked by 20 race wins, 80 podium finishes, 16 back to back seasons and 42 fastest laps, the second highest in F1’s history have defunct the fact that you cannot race supremely quick at 36. When he squishes past his rivals in the upcoming Grand Prix, not many will believe that he is the oldest driver on the grid, and possibly still the fastest.