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“JUST LEAVE ME ALONE, I KNOW WHAT TO DO!”: KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN

12 December 2021: As the chequered flag waved for one final time in Abu Dhabi in this intense, hard-fought, and controversial F1 season, we finally have a New World Champion in the form of Max Verstappen, who has been nothing short of sensational and clinical. The 4-year long streak of the 7- times World Champion Lewis Hamilton finally met its end. The scenes from the circuit and social media are surreal, the Red Bull fans losing their minds in happiness and excitement and, on the other side, Mercedes fans in utter disappointment and disbelief. This year has been a roller coaster of a season for fans, both emotionally and dramatically.


As the teams and their respective drivers call it quits, to reflect back and prepare for the upcoming 2022 season, there is this one stalwart driver who is calling quits to his f1 career for good. Yes, I am talking about none other than the ICEMAN: Kimi Räikkönen.


The most experienced F1 driver of all time with 349 Grand Prix starts (354 entries), 1-time Formula 1 World Champion, 21 race wins and, more than 18,000 laps under his belt, Kimi Räikkönen is a name in F1 history that, simply put, needs no introduction. Raikkonen has entertained and astonished one and all and, after two decades in F1, he has finally decided to retire from the sport. On the track, Kimi sure is one of the fastest and most ruthless drivers the sport has ever seen but, what sets him apart from the rest is his off-track exploits.


During his early years at McLaren, he was given the nickname- “Iceman” by his team boss: Ron Dennis. It holds many meanings, including his association with his native country Finland and the cool ‘icy’ persona he carries under pressure. His records are spread all across the history books and, one can effortlessly find them anywhere on the internet as well. What this blog column hopes to achieve is enlightening its readers about Kimi Raikkönen: the no-nonsense, savage, badass human being.


His disinterest in certain aspects of F1, especially the media circus that surrounds it and the pomp and ceremony that comes with it, sometimes crossed the line into being outright hostile. Though he mellowed out a bit in later years of his career, he has carried with him an air of nonchalance and undemanding cool all the way to his last race in the top echelons of the sport. And this is what makes him one of the most entertaining and beloved sporting figures of all time.

A lurid picture emerges from his short one-word answers in interviews that provide a blank canvas for a series of tall tales from his early career of drinking sessions and cross-continental parties. He is recognized to be the last true rebel in a sport that has become increasingly homogenized by sponsorship money and public relations controls.

Kimi is effortlessly cool because he ‘doesn’t give a damn’ (in his own words) what other people think about him. Here are a few of his most badass moments where the Iceman amused one and all, with his zero damns given attitude and made us fall in love with him:


WHEN NATURE CALLS, HE ANSWERS.

In the build-up to the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix when then-ITV pundit Martin Brundle asked Räikkönen why he missed a ceremony in which footballer Pelé presented Michael Schumacher with a lifetime achievement award, Räikkönen replied- “I was having a shit.”


YACHT > WATCH

At the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix, his McLaren MP4-21 broke down after the heat shield exploded, forcing him to retire; he went straight to his yacht fully dressed in his helmet still on his head and relaxed in his jacuzzi while the rest of the race continued.


LEAVE HIM ALONE, HE KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING.

Räikkönen’s terse radio communications have always attracted comment.

During the 20th lap of the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Räikkönen had just taken the lead from Lewis Hamilton. His race engineer Simon Rennie advised that Fernando Alonso was five seconds behind him and that Alonso’s pace is constantly being monitored. Räikkönen replied, “Just leave me alone, I know what to do!”


Later in the same race, he reprimanded his team again, when being told to manage the tire temperature: “Yes, yes, yes, yes, I’m doing that all the time. You don’t have to remind me every ten seconds!”

Räikkönen made no attempt to apologize in the post-race interview.


NERVES OF STEEL DIAMOND.

Most athletes are evidently nervous when it comes to their big debut, or in his case, his first Formula 1 race for Sauber in 2001. But to everyone’s surprise, he was caught napping, unbothered, and was woken up 30 mins before the race. Nothing bothers Kimi and he rarely gets nervous.


YEAH, WHATEVER, NEXT QUESTION.

The Iceman is known for his blunt responses, expressionless face, and emotionless stare. Known for his dislike of media appearances, Raikkönen frequently answers questions bluntly and monosyllabically. As a consequence, journalists prepared themselves to go away empty-handed from interviews with him, and we prepared ourselves to laugh at the awkwardness and audacity.


A journalist once asked Kimi what importance his helmet has to him and why its design is so important. While other drivers speak their hearts out on such questions, Kimi, on the other hand, bluntly replied: “It protects my head.”


In response to a question concerning activities, one does in his home country Finland, he said: “Well, in summer there’s fishing and shagging. And in winter the fishing is bad.” Probably not the answer that was expected, but typical Kimi.


EATING ICE CREAM, ‘ALWAYS’ IS A NORMAL THING.

His carefree and harum-scarum attitude is priceless. During 2009, Malaysian Grand Prix, the race was halted due to heavy rains. Other drivers remained in their cars but not Kimi. Taking off his race clothes, he raided the Ferrari fridge for ice cream and a bottle of coke.


HONESTLY, WHAT IS A BIG DEAL?

No matter how adverse or auspicious the situation, the Finn absolutely shows no emotions. He is eager to get back in the car even when he stands at the top of the podium.

In his first season with Ferrari, Raikkonen became world champion in his rookie year after leaving McLaren. Despite Schumacher’s five-title run in the early 2000s, Raikkonen’s victory was monumental. Even today, fourteen years after winning the championship with the Italian team, he remains the last driver ever to win a title with the team.

But did becoming a world champion change, Raikkonen, at all?

“I don’t think my life changed. I think people probably looked at me differently. They were asking different questions and they expected different things, but it didn’t feel like my life itself changed. But why would it change?
“It was just a different result. People might look at you differently, but frankly, I don’t think it is a very good reason to look at you differently, do you know what I mean?

The picture rightly represents the biggest smile he’s likely to crack.


FIRE HIM! BUT, CAN YOU…..?

Ron Dennis (his team boss at the time) was a certified control freak who valued the image of his team almost as much as he valued its performance on the track. Raikkonen’s antics at that stage of his career did not always fit with Dennis’ vision of what a Formula One driver should be, and on one occasion, it nearly cost the Finn his job.


“I had my contract ripped and put in a bag and, he gave it to me like that. But then I won the next race and. he said, 'No, no, no, no, it’s OK, let’s forget the whole thing.’


WHATEVER HE WANTS.

It is a well-known fact that he is frustrated with anything that prevents him from just racing, and he is not shy about criticizing politics and off-circuit drama. In a rare feature interview in the middle of the 2013 season, Räikkönen said- “sometimes in Formula 1 there is politics, and the shit there is stupid”. In the same article, Lotus team principal Éric Boullier described Räikkönen as someone “doing pretty much whatever he wants”.


HE DOESN’T GIVES A F…

Kimi has always been vocal about the fact that he just doesn’t care. Other’s (including his fans) opinions don’t bother him one bit. Nothing outside racing is even worth talking about, according to the Finn.

“For sure, there are lots of people who have tried to change me over the years, especially at the beginning,” he says. “They said you should do this or that, but I never really listened to them — and luckily not, because I don’t think I could live my life doing something that makes other people happy. I think you can do things to make people happy for a year or something, but it’s never going to work in the long run. You will have a bigger issue.”
“Honestly, when people say to me, ‘How can you do this or that and have nobody give you s— about it?’ I say, ‘F— that, it took me years and years of fighting against people and only now it works out.’ I do my job and I do my thing, but I always take driving seriously. The rest I always said, I don’t like it and, I am not here for the interviews or anything else but the driving.”

Perhaps Raikkonen is getting out of F1 at the right time. In an era when sports stars get “canceled” for saying or doing the wrong thing, he’s happy he isn’t starting his career now.

It is evident that Raikkonen’s career has been sustained by a few key factors. Obviously, he had a great driving ability, because without it he wouldn’t be in F1, but also his will to stick to his guns and not burn bridges. Whether that was down to a conscious decision or just a natural character trait, Raikkonen is still incredibly popular among the people who worked with him.


Most of Raikkonen’s stories date back over a decade, and he has definitely mellowed in recent years. When he retires from F1 on Sunday, his main priority will be to spend more time with his wife, Minttu, and their two young children, Robin and Rianna.

As he prepares to bow out, the Alfa Romeo driver talks about his incredible F1 career and what lies ahead.

“I had a good run and, I wouldn’t change a single thing. Even if it would mean more wins and more championships, I am happy with what I achieved and I cannot complain, really.”

And how would he like to be remembered by his adoring fans?

“However, they wish, you know? I mean, I don’t care much because, as I said, I luckily have been able to do most of the things how I wish to do it and whatever they remember – a good way, or bad way, it’s a memory – and it’s fine for me.” Typical Kimi.

But, we as ardent Formula 1 fan, sure, do care.

Thank you for those countless racing and non-racing memories, Kimi. Thank you for being the Legend you are. Formula 1 would never be the same sport after your exit. Last but not least, Never change, Kimi!

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