Once the bad-boy party animal on the grid, Kimi Raikkonen is now its elder statesman ,but the Finn's passion for racing remains undimmed as he embarks on a new challenge with Alfa Romeo, returning to the guidance of Sauber – the team with which he debuted in Formula 1 some 18 years prior. Having raced for Ferrari and McLaren, against legends across different eras of the sport, Raikkonen is from a long line of successful Finns in F1 and has cemented himself as one of the most popular drivers among fans, particularly owing to his short and sharp approach to media duties – just what was he doing during Pele's presentation at the 2006 Brazilian GP again…?
Sauber and McLaren
Raikkonen made his debut in 2001 with Sauber, his maiden F1 outing in Australia was just the 24th car race of his entire career, although he had impressed Peter Sauber in a test the previous year and he was once again on form in Melbourne, scoring a point on debut. Four points scores were achieved over the year, attracting the interest of McLaren, needing a replacement for Mika Hakkinen, who reportedly told his bosses: "If you want to win, get the Finn."
McLaren were unreliable in Raikkonen's first season with the team, but a first win came the following year in Malaysia, laying the foundation for a title challenge which saw the Finn come within two points of Michael Schumacher, by far the closest battle the German faced in his dominant Ferrari years.
After another year of poor reliability, 2005 saw Raikkonen's fortunes turn up again and he took seven wins across the season, including a spellbinding drive in Japan where he raced from 17th to first, snatching victory from Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella on the last lap. His efforts were only good enough for second in the championship once again, this time behind Fernando Alonso, but he was named 'Driver of the Year' by many publications regardless.
Once again McLaren and Raikkonen could not put strong seasons together and was did not feature in 2006's title fight, however, Michael Schumacher's retirement, announced in Monza, was followed by confirmation that Raikkonen would be the man to replace F1's most successful driver at Maranello.
Replacing Schumacher, title success
Raikkonen began his Ferrari career with an Australian GP hat-trick, in the process becoming the first driver since Nigel Mansell to take a race win on debut for the Scuderia. The Finn could not keep pace initially with the warring McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, with the latter looking like a potential champion in his rookie season. Back-to-back victories at Magny Cours and Silverstone put Raikkonen back in contention and he kept the pressure on with a run of seven podiums in the final seven races. It looked like not being enough, however, as Raikkonen trailed Hamilton by 17 points with two races remaining in China and Brazil.
Remarkably, Raikkonen won both races as McLaren's drivers completely folded – Hamilton skidding into gravel in Shanghai's pit entry from a title-winning position before a wretched Interlagos launch cost him, while Alonso could not muster the necessary points, crowning Raikkonen Finland's third world champion by a solitary point and putting Ferrari back on top just a year after Schumacher's retirement.
Raikkonen could not bring the fight to the same extent the following year as team-mate Felipe Massa lost out on the last lap of the season in Brazil to Hamilton and Ferrari's sudden drop in pace in 2009 took Raikkonen further out of the fight and led to frustrations between team and driver which led to the Scuderia effectively paying Raikkonen not to race in 2010 as Alonso was drafted in to replace him.
Time away from F1 and return with Lotus
Raikkonen turned down an offer to drive for Toyota in 2010 and instead tried his hand at the World Rally Championship and NASCAR, however he did not find success in either. Having been linked with Renault in F1 previously, he signed a deal with them under their Lotus rebrand in 2012, partnering Romain Grosjean.
He had clearly not missed a beat and finished third in the championship on his first season back, including taking a win in the Abu Dhabi GP which included the now legendary "leave me alone, I know what to do" message to his pitwall. Another victory came in Australia the following year, but Lotus were never expected to be on the dominant Red Bull's pace, however, six second-place finishes proved that Raikkonen was indeed back in business.
Ferrari return, long drought and finally a win
Raikkonen returned to Ferrari in 2014, partnering the man who had replaced him in Fernando Alonso, although the car was well off the pace at the start of the V6 Hybrid era and his best result was a fourth-place finish in Belgium.
Sebastian Vettel joined the Scuderia in 2015, with Raikkonen taking on what was perceived as 'number two' status to the German. This seemed to be played out as strategy regularly favoured Vettel, who would usually outqualify the Finn and finish ahead when both saw the chequered flag. This became particularly prevalent in 2017 as Vettel took a challenge to Lewis Hamilton for the title, but Raikkonen finished fourth in the championship with just a handful of podiums to his name.
Written off by many, 2018 saw a renaissance of sorts from Raikkonen, securing 12 podiums across the season – better only by champion Hamilton – and winning his first race since that 2013 Australia success for Lotus in the United States Grand Prix. Raikkonen ended a run of 113 races without a win, now a record, by taking the chequered flag at COTA exactly 11 years to the day since his title win. It had already been confirmed that Raikkonen would leave to be replaced by Charles Leclerc at the end of the year, ensuring the win went down as a fine farewell present ahead of a switch to Sauber, since rebranded as Alfa Romeo.
Kimi Raikkonen personal life
Raikkonen lives in Switzerland, a short drive to Alfa Romeo's headquarters, with his wife Minttu and two children - son Robin and younger daughter Rianna. The whole Raikkonen family is seen often at grands prix.
Raikkonen was previously married to Finnish model Jenni Dahlman, crowned Miss Scandinavia in 2001. The pair married in July 2004, but separated in 2013, finalising their divorce a year later.
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