Kimi Raikkonen's Last Dance - A Farewell to the Iceman
Formula 1 will bid farewell to one of the sports greatest talents and characters...
349 Grand Prix starts, 21 career victories, 103 podiums, and one memorable World Championship. For a man of few words, Kimi Raikkonen's Formula 1 resume is long and detailed. As the Iceman prepares to strap into a Formula 1 car for the final race weekend of his career, it's important to take a moment away from the championship drama and appreciate a driver that transcended Formula 1. In tribute to the way Kimi carried himself in F1, we'll try and keep this short and to the point.
20 years ago, a fresh faced Finnish driver turned up to the 2001 Australian Grand Prix off the back of a very impressive testing outing with Sauber in September of 2000. The young Finn was very inexperienced at the time but his raw pace and talent made a mark of Peter Sauber who tried to keep the news as quiet as possible to distract potential competitors. Raikkonen's impact on Formula 1 was immediate as he moved onto McLaren for 2002 and this is where he showcased his racing brilliance. Raikkonen went head to head to Ferrari's Michael Schumacher and produced many memorable moves and races in the early 2000's era. Unfortunately due to reliability and at times the lack of a good car, Kimi's hopes of a world title at McLaren never materialized. But a few years later, Raikkonen would cement his name in Formula 1 history forever as he became World Champion with Ferrari in 2007 during his first year with the team. Even the stoic Iceman couldn't help but be emotional at achieving every racing driver's dream of being Formula 1 World Champion. Post 2007, chances at another world championship would evade him and Raikkonen started to make more headlines for his team radio messages than his driving. Who could forget Kimi's greatest hits such as; 'Leave me alone, I know what to do!" Or, 'Gloves and Steering Wheel.' Although the blunt radio messages and media responses from Kimi are well known to the newer generation of fans, it's easy to forget how Raikkonen made his name in motorsport.
Prior to his break from F1, Kimi was one of the best drivers on the grid who's speed at times would be unmatched. The Finn was a driver who could pull off daring overtakes at any point in the circuit but do so in a way that was fair and clean. Raikkonen's unique talent to make anything with 4 wheels go fast is undoubtedly what will always make him a special driver. Whether it's a Formula 1 car, hovercraft, or rally car, put the Iceman at the helm of the wheel, and it will go fast. So how will Kimi be remembered in Formula 1 after he retires? Don't ask him because he probably would say he doesn't care. But his fellow F1 colleagues are full of praise and admiration for a driver who did things his own way. “Kimi will be missed in Formula 1,” said Fernando Alonso. "I like him a lot – the way he in his own way loves the sport and has been for so many years in Formula 1. I think he’s very honest always which I really like that part of Kimi and I think outside he’s maybe his mask of being cold and ‘Iceman’, there is a very good person inside that you meet from time to time outside the circuits." Raikkonen's former teammate Sebastian Vettel also had nothing but good things to say about the retiring Finn. "Great respect. I don't think you can have an argument or a problem with Kimi. If you do, then the problem is not him, the problem is you. "He's a great person, and I'm sure we'll stay in touch. I wish him all the best and I will miss the silence."
So as Raikkonen enters his final F1 race at the age of 42, their must be a world of emotions and some sadness as he bids farewell to the sport he loves right? “No, why would you get emotional about it?” Raikkonen said.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m happy that it’s soon over. So it’s nothing sad, nothing bad about it. I think it’s good.”
We've come to expect nothing less from Kimi in an answer to a question like that and it's one of the many qualities the F1 world will miss. As we enter the season finale in Abu Dhabi, all focus is one the championship decider between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Raikkonen has been there before but don't expect him to be handing out advice to either driver ahead of this race. Kimi will be more than happy to finish out his hobby years at Alfa Romeo in a quiet manner, hopefully battling with his old friends Sebastian and Fernando in the mid-field. The drama and intensity of the 2021 championship has taken the spotlight away from Raikkonen's retirement and that's exactly how he wants it. Don't expect a donut parade on the start/finish straight like Alonso got back in 2018. No this retirement party will be much different. As the fireworks are lit and the confetti drops in celebration of the 2021 World Champion, Raikkonen will park his car, hand in his gloves and steering wheel with the drink, and exit stage left as only Kimi knows how, quietly.