Kimi Raikkonen has made his mark on Formula 1’s history by never abandoning his genuine cold personality, being last Ferrari’s F1 world champion, becoming the most experienced driver on F1 of all time, and show unforgettable driving spectacles as much as when he was 20 years old as now that he is about to turn 42.
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Now, in the mark of the third season of his second era driving for Sauber branding Alfa Romeo, and with the summer break setting on an exciting fight for the championship, the 2007 World Champion sat with RaceFans.net to talk about his debut and his thoughts on driving an F1 car nowadays.
“I was doing go-karts and it got to the point that it didn’t cost anything. I got some pocket money working with Peter de Bruijn between the races and building go-karts that I sold. I thought that I can do go-kart for the next 10 years and at some point I’d get some money out of it.”
Having shown his talent at Formula Renault, Raikkonen caught the eye of David and Steve Robertson, the pair that funded his move into car racing and then made possible his first test in an F1 car, testing a Sauber on Mugello in 2000, a track the Finn recognizes was by far the best for the matter, but “If I had a chance, I will take it, because obviously you might not get many chances in here. I obviously tried to use the chance as long as I can. Who knows what comes out of it.”
“Without the Robertsons I would never had the chance to go for the racing in cars, that’s for sure. That was the next big step from go-karts.”
“For sure it was hard to drive it. No power steering, my neck couldn’t take it. Obviously from Formula Renault the braking and the speed through the corner was completely a different story than I was used to. So on that side I was not ready. But obviously I wouldn’t tell them that ‘no, sorry, I can’t come because I’m not feeling strong enough or something,” Raikkonen told RaceFans.net.
The Finn went to make his F1 debut with nothing more than 23 single-seater races under his belt, and so he reflects on how, with the current superlicense format needed to drive on the pinnacle of motorsport, the circumstances of his initiation would have made impossible for him to race for Sauber in 2001.
“There was this story about the superlicence, if I would get it. Probably I worried about it but I never found out if I have it for one race or two races, I never even asked.”
Flashback to 2001, and Kimi's 'original' debut for @SauberF1Team...— Formula 1 (@F1) September 12, 2018
He made some bold moves, and finished P6 in his first #F1 race!
More scenes like this at next year's Australian Grand Prix? 😉 pic.twitter.com/YIFSgJUJAd
The United States GP that took place at the Circuit of the Americas in 2018 still remains as Kimi Raikkonen’s last victory on F1. When he left Ferrari, the Scuderia gifted him the SF71H on which he achieved that latest maiden win and now the Finn recognizes he hasn’t made use of it yet and will do so when he’s “old enough that it’s scary”.
“It’s a full running car so I [can] take it to the track and use it. But obviously I need a few mechanics to come from Italy to start it up.”
At last year’s Eifel GP, the Finn passed Rubens Barrichello’s record for most F1 race starts. Now, being the Hungarian GP his 340th and topping the statistic over the Brazilian’s 322 starts, Raikkonen recognizes the differences 20 years of F1 have made on him and the category, but says “was it better or it’s now better? It’s what it is.”
“There’s more people, bigger motorhomes, bigger factories, all these things. All the small details matter much more now than when I started. But I think the driving part hasn’t really changed that much.”
Just as he said in the exclusive for MotorLat in early June, the Sauber of 2001 and the Alfa Romeo team of now have their differences: "It's in the same place but the buildings have got bigger and there's a wind tunnel and a lot more people working.”
The Finn concluded by saying how he thinks the way the drivers race each other now has become more reckless and harder compared to the old days of the 41-years-old beginnings. “In the earlier days maybe the racing itself was a bit more fair. If somebody was there [alongside], you didn’t kind of push him off. Sometimes, yes, but that was maybe different then.”