Kimi Raikkonen has never been known as one of the most excitable characters on the F1 grid.
Indeed for a sport that has a Cheshire cat, a rock star and a Samurai within its midst, the mono-tonal ramblings from the man known as the ‘Iceman’ have made Raikkonen just as bigger character but at the other end of the scale.
It has been the way he has always been, if he could sit in his motorhome until ten minutes before each session, jump in the car, drive and then go back to his motorhome again, he probably would. We know privately Kimi isn’t as dull as he makes himself out to be in the media, indeed he is probably one of the sport’s biggest party animals, but the whole media spotlight and celebrity status that comes with being a F1 driver is not what he craves.
It was one of the reasons his return with Lotus in 2012 worked so well, he had minimal commitments outside of race weekends. He said his bit to the media, as all drivers are obliged to do, and was able to leave much of the work to the engineers and Romain Grosjean.
This individualistic approach was most highlighted, famously, at the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix, because Kimi did not associate himself with the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers Association), when the rest were on the grid getting soaked in the monsoonal rain anticipating a restart he had gone to the paddock got changed and was stood in the hospitality eating an ice-cream.
Yet Raikkonen is, and remains, one of the great racing drivers of this generation, a guy who came through at the same time as Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa. He knows what he wants and how he wants to do it and when Ferrari didn’t want him at the end of 2009 he simply moved on to another of his passions – rallying.
It is this attitude that you don’t find among many young upcoming drivers, they all enjoy the attention, the lifestyle, the opportunities to build a their own brand so after he left F1 knew they had lost someone special in Raikkonen. It was also the warm welcome he got upon his return with Lotus and then subsequent win at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that proved, despite his approach, he can still draw just as many fans as the likes of Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel.
When the relationship with Lotus soured then last year, as the financial difficulties really hit, it was with shock that he agreed to move back to Ferrari, a team that though he had won his championship with in 2007 no longer seemed to fit his character.
Red Bull had shown interest after Mark Webber announced his retirement and the opportunity to join one of the his friends in the F1 paddock, four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, made it more realistic.
The Finn had worked with Red Bull while rallying but again, such is the commercial juggernaut the Austrian drinks company has become, the off-track activities and promotional work didn’t seem to suit Raikkonen’s way.
Eventually the Ferrari deal was done after Daniel Ricciardo had become the man chosen to replace Webber and the prospect of Alonso, the man who was the clear number one at the team, partnering with not only the man who won their last drivers crown, but also the guy who he had kicked out to join the team in 2010 made for what many saw as a combustible environment.
I, however, was not one of those people. Though Alonso has history when it comes to having a team-mate on an equal footing, the thought of a fierce rivalry between the two seemed unlikely because it wouldn’t be in Raikkonen’s nature. Yes there has been a couple of occasions when a few tempers may have flared, particularly at the Spanish Grand Prix, but internal battles at Williams, Red Bull and Mercedes have been far more intriguing.
This has largely being down to Raikkonen struggling to adapt to the F14-T. Try as Ferrari might Raikkonen has just not been able to extract the speed that Alonso has. There was hope in Spain and Monaco but the late collision with Kevin Magnussen in Monte Carlo was the last meaningful thing Kimi has done.
Throughout the year Raikkonen has had to deal with questions over whether he has the motivation for F1 and whether that is a potential reason for his lack of results. Though he has strongly denied such claims, you do have to wonder if Kimi has the same patience with Ferrari that Alonso has shown, or indeed if Ferrari have the same patience with him.
For Kimi if he is not battling for wins of championships it is only the love for racing that keeps him going otherwise why not just return to rallying or retire altogether. It is a similar question some are asking about Jenson Button and Alonso too is also talking of only a desire for one more title keeping him going.
The remainder of this season will be key to whether Raikkonen stays on for the second year he has signed with Ferrari, if he feels there is nothing left to gain this could be the year possibly two of F1′s longest-serving drivers call it a day.
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