KIMI RAIKKONEN: HOW THE ICEMAN BECAME AN F1 LEGEND
Kimi Raikkonen. If you could describe him in one word, what would it be? Quiet? Calculating? BWOAH? It's hard. Last weekend he finally won his 21st GP in Austin in what was a showcase of his gigantic experience in Formula One, fending off Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen on multiple occasions.
It was The Iceman's first win for 113 races since he won with Lotus in Melbourne 2013. It is his first win since returning to Ferrari in 2014, his first win for Ferrari since Belgium 2009, he is now the most successful Finnish driver of all time, and the most impressive stat of all, he holds the record for the biggest gap between first and last career wins 5,691 days since Malaysia 2003.
But how did Raikkonen become such an enigma? Such an F1 legend? I mean when he won in Austin the crowd went absolutely wild, more than any other win of the season so far, but to someone who only watches the occasional F1 race, this may confuse you. From a statistical standpoint this wouldn't make sense: He's won twenty races, one world championship and 18 pole positions, nothing compared to Sebastian Vettel or Lewis Hamilton, but yet the crowd in general love him as much as the two drivers combined.
It's the complexity yet simplicity of his persona that intrigues F1 fans and with this he can say just a few words which will delight every fan. Strange, isn't it?
Let's take a trip down memory lane and outline Kimi Raikkonen's interesting career:
2001: A 21 YEAR OLD FINN JOINS THE F1 CIRCUS
Raikkonen began his F1 career at Sauber. On the basis of three tests, Peter Sauber gave him the seat alongside Nick Heidfeld for the 2001 season. Multiple high level figures in F1 were unsure about giving such an inexperienced driver a Super License. At this point, Raikkonen had only registered 23 car races, over one season in the Formula Renault UK Championship, where he achieved a staggering 56% win rate.
On the opening race Raikkonen scored a championship point in his debut in Melbourne, yet was reportedly sleeping thirty minutes before the race.
Over the 2001 season Raikkonen began making a name for himself, scoring four points finishes, including two fourth places in Austria and Canada, plus a fifth place at Silverstone. He finished tenth in the championship and thanks to his talent plus Heidfeld, Sauber finished fourth in the constructors, their best ever result.
2002: RAIKKONEN JOINS THE BIG BOYS
However Raikkonen would not stay with Sauber for 2001. Raikkonen had caught Ron Dennis's eye as a possible replacement for the outbound Mika Hakkinen who was retiring from Formula One. So it was set. After just seventeen races in Formula One, Raikkonen would partner David Coulthard in 2002 at McLaren.
At the opening race in Australia, he qualified P5 and took his first podium in F1 on his first race with McLaren.
However in 2002 McLaren struggled with reliability and it wasn't until Canada when Raikkonen finished a race, in P4. However the results then began to pick up; a third place in Germany, a career-best second in France, fourth in Hungary, and he finished the season off with a podium at Japan.
Raikkonen may not have scored his first win, but finishing sixth in the championship and scoring four podiums was a pretty decent start in the big leagues.
2003: A CHALLENGER FOR SCHUMACHER
2003: A new season, and more importantly McLaren had solved their reliability problems and had a championship challenging car.
In the opening race, Raikkonen recovered from P15 to P3, and in Malaysia he took a dominating first win.
Over the next five races, he took four second places and after seven rounds was leading the championship by four points from Michael Schumacher. The young Finn was proving to be a F1 star.
However over the next four races there was a lull of results, Raikkonen only acheiving one podium, and due to this he slipped to nine points behind Schumacher and now Montoya of Williams was in second place in the championship.
In Hungary Raikkonen finished second and then fourth at Monza, meaning with two rounds to go he was seven points behind Schumacher and four behind Montoya, surely out of the runnings.
At the penultimate round Raikkonen took a somewhat disappointing second place after taking pole, with Schumacher taking the win. He was nine points behind the reigning champion however was still mathematically possible the win the title at Suzuka.
At Suzuka, Raikkonen qualified P8, Schumacher P14. The young Finn gave it his all, managing to climb his way to P2 but he came just shy of winning what would have been a surprising title. With a win and nine podiums, Raikkonen asserted himself as a contender for a future world championship.
2004: MCLAREN GO TWO STEPS BACKWARD
Just as McLaren seemed to be back, 2004 put them right at the back again. Their car was just not fast enough and proved extremely unreliable, Raikkonen scoring seven DNF's in the season.
Halfway through the season Raikkonen's best result was P5 in Canada. He was able to pick up his first podium of the season at Silverstone with P2, and then at Belgium, Raikkonen pulled off a miraculous win from P10 to take his first win at Spa, the first of many.
He signed the season off on a high note with P3 in China and P2 at Suzuka, but ultimately he finished seventh in the drivers championship.
2005: CLOSER, BUT RELIABILITY STILL A MAJOR ISSUE
2005 could be seen as a breakout season for Kimi Raikkonen, finishing second in the championship behind Alonso but managed to take a staggering seven wins, only one less than Alonso in his Renault.
It was a poor start to the season until race three where Raikkonen took a podium in Bahrain, but at Imola he took pole and created a big lead until on lap 9 he retired from the lead with driveshaft problems.
Raikkonen bounced back with two wins in Spain and Monaco, and should have won in Germany but famously on the final lap his suspension collapsed, gifting Alonso the win.
However failure only motivated the Finn, taking another win in Canada, second in France and third at Silverstone, however at this point he was 26 points behind Alonso, a lead that looked like it was unassailable.
He took two consecutive wins at Hungary and Turkey, but due to a retirement in Germany (the other one), the lead was still at 24 points.
Fourth In Monza didn't help, and with four rounds to go, he was now 27 points behind Alonso, championship already looking like it was a game over.
The Iceman finished his season strongly, winning two races at Spa and Suzuka (From P17!! in the dry) and finishing P2 in Brazil and China, meaning he finished twenty-one points behind Alonso, but achieved seven race wins, and was on the podium for twelve of the eighteen rounds. If he had won at Imola and Germany, it would have been nip-and-tuck with Alonso, but still, a great season for the Iceman.
2006: SAME OLD PROBLEMS AT MCLAREN
The case of McLaren's car being good for one season and bad for another seemed to have been proven, with 2006 being more reliable than '04 but the car just wasn't as quick as the Renault's or Ferrari's. Thus ensued a tough battle for podiums throughout the season, with McLaren failing to pick up a win.
In the opener at Bahrain Kimi qualified P22 and finished P3, just showcasing his skill at overtaking the field. In Australia he took P2, and then over the next three races took small points scores, meaning by Spain he was third in the championship.
He retired in Monaco after qualifying P3, but then took two podiums in Canada and at Silverstone, meaning somehow he was still in third place in the drivers championship halfway through the season.
But then over the next seven races he retired four times, although he picked up two podiums in Germany and Monza. At Monza it was announced that after five seasons with McLaren, Raikkonen would be moving to Ferrari, replacing Michael Schumacher, who won the race.
Two fifth places at Interlagos and Suzuka summed up his season at McLaren, finished in fifth place in the drivers championship, taking six podium finishes.
2007: KIMI PIPS THE MCLAREN'S
2007 marked the start of a new Raikkonen, both in his personality and his racing. At Ferrari, he won his first race with them in Australia, showcasing the speed the Ferrari had previewed in winter testing, however the McLaren's were certainly there, with Alonso P2 and Hamilton P3.
In Bahrain and Malaysia he took two P3's, those two being won by Alonso and his new team-mate Felipe Massa.
A retirement in Spain did not help his championship campaign and some mediocre results in Monaco, Canada and the USA (some not down to him) were slowly putting the Iceman out of contention for the F1 world championship as the season entered the halfway point.
However two consecutive race wins in France and Silverstone - the latter being an absolute corker! - mean't that he was back in the hunt, meaning he was 18 points behind championship leader Lewis Hamilton and only six behind Alonso.
Another retirement, this time in Germany really didn't help, but then he scored the consecutive podiums and a win at his favourite circuit at Spa mean't he was still in with a shout with three rounds to go, thirteen points behind Hamilton and and eleven behind Alonso. All of this occurred during the infamous spygate era.
At Fuji it was one of the wettest ever seen in F1, reminisent of the 1976 title decider at the very same circuit. Raikkonen was at one point near the back of the grid but managed a excellent P3, on par with the talent showcased by Hamilton to win in trecherous conditions. 17 points behind Lewis, five behind 'Nando, the title fight looked over.
At China whilst leading the race Lewis Hamilton stayed out too long on the intermediates and could not make the pit lane, beeching his car in the gravel. This gifted Kimi the win, with Alonso P2. He was now seven points behind Hamilton and three behind Alonso, reminiscent of 2003, but this all seemed too late.
At Interlagos, Massa took pole, Hamilton P2, Raikkonen P3. At the start Raikkonen and Alonso jumped him, then around halfway through the race a mechanical cost him the championship.
All of a sudden with Raikkonen in P2, it looked like Alonso might take a third consecutive championship title, but Ferrari enlisted team-orders to gift Raikkonen the win and therefore the championship by one point.
After seven seasons in Formula One, Kimi Raikkonen had finally won the world championship.
2008: POOR QUALIFYING HURTS RAIKKONEN'S CHANCES
2008: the defending champion; always a good feeling.
The opening race in Melbourne: P16 in qualifying due to a broken fuel pump, and finished P8 in what was his first race as the defending champion. Not a great start, however over the next four races Kimi took two wins in Malaysia and Spain, plus two podiums in Bahrain and Turkey reasserted himself as a championship contender.
Two non-points finishes in Monaco and Canada did not help at all, dropping him to fourth in the championship.
A second place in France helped, although a problem with the car cost him the victory to his team-mate Felipe Massa, who began to look like the best shot for Ferrari to win the drivers championship.
Some middling points scores plus a podium just about kept him in contention but then four non-points finishes mean't he was definitely out of the championship battle, now assisting Massa's championship hopes.
In the final three races he took three P3's, practically summing his season up. It wasn't as successful as many had hoped, especially with Hamilton winning the title, but Ferrari had won the constructors title.
2009: NEW REGULATIONS PUT FERRARI AT THE BACK
2009 marked the new F1 regulations, with Brawn coming out on top, with Red Bull close behind, but the two biggest teams in F1 since 1998 suffered the worst, making their cars the third and fourth fastest cars respectively.
This showed in the opening part of the season. After five races, Raikkonen's best finish was P6.
Monaco was a reminder of what he could achieve in a car that shouldn't be able to, finishing P3, his first podium of the season.
After another string of low-points finishes, Raikkonen went on a small roll, taking P2 in Hungary, third in Germany, winning the race in a close fight with Fisichella in Belgium, his fourth of his career, and then another podium in Monza to the delight of the Tifosi.
His season finished rather dismally, a P4 in Suzuka the highlight, and it was announced that Raikkonen would leave the sport and take a sabbatical due to Ferrari's desire to have Alonso for the 2010 season, despite being the second highest paid sportsman in the world at the time.
It was announced shortly after the 2009 season that Raikkonen would be racing in the World Rally Championship for the Junior Citroen team. This was an interesting shift to a different category, especially considering that WRC and F1 don't really have much in common.
But of course you say! Raikkonen is Finn, which means he should be able to do Scandinavian flicks at his pleasure.
Raikkonen wasn't actually that bad in a WRC car. He scored five points finishes in eleven rallies, including an impressive fifth place in Turkey. He finished the drivers championship in tenth place, nowhere near where he was at in F1 with Ferrari, but he was enjoying himself.
In 2011 he raced under his own team, called ICE 1 (imagine if that was a F1 team? Maybe for the future?). In his opening six rallies, he scored points in all of them, consistently finishing sixth or seventh, which is not only impressive for a driver who only had one year experience in the sport but also under his own team. He scored more points in the 2011 season, but also finished in tenth place, but during the twilight rallies of the season, it was announced that after two years out, Raikkonen would be coming back to F1, with the new Team Lotus.
2012: KIMI BACK WITH A BANG
This was an interesting move on Raikkonen's part. Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull were all locked up for 2012, it was thought that around the 2011 Singapore GP that Raikkonen would be indeed returning to the sport, but with Williams. However these turned out to be false rumours, and he joined the Lotus team.
No one was expecting Raikkonen to achieve what he did with Lotus, especially considering the budget they had.
In the opening two races he took two points finishes, and then after not scoring in China, but then in Bahrain after qualifying eleventh he took P2, only three seconds behind Vettel for his first podium since returning to the sport, and then followed it up with a third place in Spain. All of a sudden Raikkonen was in fourth place in the drivers championship.
He scored some points in Monaco and Canada, and then took a solid P2 in Valencia. At Lotus's home race he took P5, and then what followed was a strong string of three consecutive podiums in Germany, Hungary; where he took P2, and of course in Belgium with P3. At this point somehow Kimi was in P4 in the drivers championship, and not to mention thanks to some strong results from his team-mate Romain Grosjean, Lotus were in third place in the constructors championship.
Then in the next five races he finished P5-P7 for all of them, not podium finishes, but all valuable points for Lotus, and his consistency mean't he leapfrogged Mark Webber for third place the DC with three rounds to go, and Lotus were in a solid 4th place in the CC.
Then came Abu Dhabi. In what was a hectic race Raikkonen raced a superb race, holding off Alonso in the final quarter of the race, with the famous line: 'Leave me alone! I know what I'm doing". - Classic Kimi.
Finally, after eighteen races, Raikkonen claimed his first win since returning to the sport.
He finished the season in third place in the drivers championship and Lotus took a solid fourth place after their first season returning to the sport.
2013: STRONG FIRST HALF, BUT LOTUS SLOW DOWN WITH DEVELOPEMENT
2013 proved to be a great season for Kimi, at least for the first half. Lotus had a competitive car, but their in-season development slowed down due to money problems.
In the opening race in Melbourne, Raikkonen attempted a two-stop whilst everyone else took a three-stop, and it proved to be brilliant, and he took the race win in what was he said 'the easiest race win ever'.
He took P7 in Malaysia, and then three consecutive P2 finishes, meaning after five rounds he was only four points behind championship leader Sebastian Vettel.
However three low-points finishes took some momentum off his championship bid, mean't he was in a distant third place.
He took two straight P2's again, meaning he was back into P2 in the championship, but from here to the end of the season, he only took one more podium, a P2 finish in Korea.
Raikkonen missed the final two races of the season for back surgery.
It was in the mid-season that it was rumoured that Raikkonen was not happy with Lotus and was looking at other teams. He was apparently in negotiations with Red Bull, but these broke down. At one point it was a possible return to McLaren, but in September it was announced that Raikkonen would return to Ferrari to partner Fernando Alonso.
2014: FERRARI AND RAIKKONEN STRUGGLE TO ADJUST TO NEW REGULATIONS
Like in 2009, Ferrari struggled to adjust to the new era of Formula One. The team had only the fourth quickest car behind the Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams teams. This showed in their results, not winning one race, with Kimi Raikkonen not even picking up a podium. If you had to pick a season where Kimi was at his lowest, 2014 would be my answer.
In the opening five races, he scored some low-points finishes, a P7 in Spain a highlight. Then came some low finishes and a retirement at Silverstone. Then followed a stronger run mid-season; a P6 in Hungary, P4 at Spa, a P9 at Monza and a P8 at Singapore.
Raikkonen finished the season with fifty-five points and finished in 12th place in the DC, the lowest in his career.
2015: BETTER, BUT STILL NOT GREAT
2015 saw an improvement in the Ferrari car, and with the arrival of four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel at the team, the Prancing Horses became the second fastest team behind Mercedes.
Kimi's season overall was an improvement, but nothing to shout about, mainly holding off the Williams duo for most of the season, playing hookie to Sebastian.
The season opened with a retirement, but then followed some decent results, finishing in the top six for six consecutive races, including a solid P2 in Bahrain, however two retirements at the next three races was not great.
Kimi's trend of a uptick in the second half of the season continued in 2015 like the previous season, and over the next five races scored some strong points finishes, including P3 in Singapore.
Raikkonen rounded the season off strongly with a P4 in Brazil and P3 in Dubai.
He finished fourth in the championship and with three podiums and fourteen points finishes was a dramatic improvement from 2015, but still was nowhere near the levels of his first stint with Ferrari.
2016: FERRARI'S HOPES DERAILED, YET RAIKKONEN IMPROVES
2016 was not a particularly great season for Ferrari, failing to win a race, but for Kimi Raikkonen he was much closer to his team-mate Sebastian Vettel, finishing the season only twenty-six points behind the German.
Despite strong qualifying in Melbourne, Raikkonen was forced to retire at the season opener for a second season running, but then took a second consecutive P2 in Bahrain. He took another podium in Russia and a P2 finish in Spain mean't after five races somehow the Finn was in second place in the championship.
A retirement in Monaco stopped his forward momentum, but then what followed was one of the most consistent spans in anyone's F1 career. Raikkonen completed eleven successive races in the top six (bar Belgium - P9), including a podium in Austria and four fourth place finishes, considerably helping Ferrari maintain their hopes of taking second place in the CC from Red Bull.
Kimi finished the season with 186 points and four podiums. Again, an improvement and this consistency led to Raikkonen maintaining his seat for another season.
2017: FERRARI IMPROVE; KIMI STAYS CONSISTENT
What do you expect? After two very consistent seasons, Raikkonen continued this form into 2017, but this time scoring seven podiums and a pole position in Monaco.
In the season opener he finished for the first time since 2014 in P4, then P5 in China, and P4 in Bahrain, picking up from last season.
He took another third place in Russia, but a retirement in Spain wasn't the best.
Then in Monaco he took pole and led for half of the race, but many suspect that due to team-orders he took the inferior race strategy to allow Sebastian Vettel to take the win as he was leading the championship.
Over the next three races there were some mediocre results, but like the previous three seasons, Raikkonen turned up the volume in the final half of the season, taking P3 at Silverstone, P2 in Hungary - another one he could have won if it wasn't due to team-orders, P4 in Belgium and P5 in Italy.
In the final five races of the season Raikkonen ended strongly, taking three consecutive podiums, and a 4th and 5th place.
After four seasons in his second stint with Ferrari he had scored fourteen podiums.
2018: STRONGEST SEASON SINCE WINNING THE TITLE
I think we can all agree that his year Raikkonen has found another level, a level that means he is able to race with the top drivers in the sport once more for race wins.
He opened the season by qualifying P2 and finishing P3. In Bahrain, he retired from P2 after a falty light in the pitlane mean't he hit a Ferrari mechanic. (Keep this in mind +18)
In China he finished third and in the hectic race in Azerbaijan he finished P2 only two seconds beind race-winner Hamilton.
He retired in Spain, then took two mediocre results in Monaco and Canada, and then came the run of five consecutive podiums, including P2 in Austria, meaning he was only fourty-three points behind Vettel, however it was this point of the season that it was rumoured that 2018 would be Raikkonen's eighth and final season at Ferrari and would be replaced by rookie Charles Leclerc, although that did not materialise until September.
In Belgium he showed great pace but was struck by Ricciardo at Turn 1 and was forced to retire once more.
At Monza out of the bloom Raikkonen took pole position and with it the fastest lap in F1 history. Now that is a good record to have, in the race he led for three-quarters of the race until Hamilton overtook him for the win.
Then followed some average results in Singapore, Russia, and Japan, but then, just last week he won arguably the most entertaining race of the season in Austin, beating Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
BUT WHAT MAKE HIM AN ENIGMA?
Tough question. Probably his honesty, bluntness, and seeing things black and white.
He is without a doubt the driver who says the funniest things. We all remember 'Leave me alone. I know what I'm doing' at Abu Dhabi in 2012, or when Martin Brundle asked why he missed a podium ceremony in Brazil, he said on live TV, 'I was having a shit'. Classic Kimi.
Even the biggest Charles Leclerc fans were slightly sad when it was announced that this would be Kimi's last season with Ferrari, and I was down in the dumps for quite some time until it was announced that he would stay in F1 for another two seasons with Sauber.
At first, I was pessimistic, but then I realised that it will be nice for Kimi to be able to race and and extra two years added onto his career is just fine for me.
I hope you liked this in-depth article; please leave your thoughts in the comments below.