Kimi Raikkonen- An appreciation of the Iceman of F1 racing!
On December 12, 2021, the ongoing Formula 1 world championship will observe the final Grand Prix of the season.
And the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will most likely uphold the triumph of one between Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen as the 2021 world champion. Though, given the way this season has panned out, there’s still no certainty as to who might prevail in the end.
But frankly that’s not all that the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will bring to the fore.
Home to one of the most sensational looking racing venues on the calendar, the Yas Marina will bring curtains to the career of a driver, who back in 2012, stormed to a mega win amid tens of thousands of stunned fans.
Spectators who you could say never really expected the triumph of a Lotus ahead of a Red Bull or Ferrari.
But then surprising detractors and doing things in his own fashion, even if that means deviating from the standard norm has always been Kimi Matias Raikkonen- isn’t it?
A driver who holds the record for driving in a third of all Formula 1 Grands Prix!
A driver who from the onset of his maiden race, circa March 4, 2001 up until the date of his very recent race, i.e., the Turkish Grand Prix of October 10, 2021, has been inimitable and truly one of a kind in the way he’s gone about competing at the pinnacle of motor-racing.
What we realize about Kimi is that he’s been here for a long time, having debuted as a 22-year-old at the back of only twenty-three prior races before earning his revered Formula 1 super license.
What we don’t, however, is that Kimi, until such time- and that’s a two-decade long journey, by the way- has stamped his authority over F1 in the most silent yet indistinguishable manner.
Calm, collected, unsullied by how others viewed his reticent personality, here was a man who did things his own way unflustered by defeats and unmoved by triumphs.
That’s when he’s been a world champion with the sport’s most widely followed team: Ferrari. That’s when he won his maiden and only F1 world championship in the first season with Ferrari, something that even the great Michael Schumacher failed to do.
No Buddha either, but then nor a polluted creature either who unfurled the razzmatazz of money when he could so easily have, Raikkonen was, still is, and will likely be the same bloke he’s been throughout as he’ll cross the checkered flag at Abu Dhabi: a simple, uncomplicated driver whose prime focus was the love for racing.
Something doing which he garnered twenty one race wins, and in cricketing parlance, hit (over) a century of podiums, 103 to be precise.
While to his critics, Kimi Raikkonen of Espoo, Finland will seem a great underachiever given despite his natural speed and measured racecraft he won only one world championship.
But, to those among us who think of themselves as number crunchers and like to idle time by bringing down others, one wonders how might the feat of bagging 103 career podiums in 347 races sound?
Doing the math suggests, Raikkonen fetched one podium every 3.3 races, which may seem ugly only in the book of the one who casts a blind eye on achievements.
For there are many drivers out there who did a lot less in comparison to what Raikkonen bagged albeit never shying away from partaking in drama as and when a chance presented itself.
If you were to simply take cognizance of some of F1’s most talked-about talents who, despite everything, never bagged even a single world title, then names like Carlos Reutemann, Felipe Massa, Giles Villeneuve, Ronnie Peterson, Jacky Ickx to quote some, may simply startle you.
Against that background, the realization that Kimi Raikkonen, the man with the third-most number of fastest laps in the sport-46- not only achieve a world title, but won it by the scant margin of a single point proves the Iceman from Finland was no lame pushover.
During his McLaren years, Kimi Raikkonen all but aced the 2003 world title, finishing just two points adrift of the world champion that year, Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher.
In only his second season (then) with the Ron Dennis-led team, Kimi garnered 91 points to Schumi’s 93, thus earning respect from the iconic German, who admitted to having faced a nearly undeniable charge from one of Finland’s greatest exports to the world of F1 racing.
The purist, in that regard, would admit that Kimi came mighty close at bagging another driver’s title except he couldn’t. But what he did, however, are feats such as his seventeenth-to-first win at Japan’s Suzuka (in 2005) that are recalled to the young and old, everywhere where Kimi’s looked upto as being a synonym of speed.
The late braking, the master maneuvering on the grid, the infallible will to succeed, Raikkonen was and still is, a one of a kind.
At one Monaco Grand Prix qualifying during his McLaren years, a stint that carved the cult of the Iceman, Kimi finished half a second-let that sink in- ahead of Fernando Alonso, then with Renault.
Blunting others by virtue of raw pace but never brutal in his administering of verbatim, for there was never a need to indulge in mind games, Raikkonen embodied great work ethic from the start of his career, focusing on improving his lap times and his own craft instead of participating in banter.
Maybe that’s why, even those who end up talking too much whilst leaving little impact behind will miss Kimi. Not because he spoke a great deal; but because the monosyllabic Finn fought on silently.
Picture events like the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix. Bagging a pitch-perfect pole at the famous principality, when it looked nearly certain that a first Ferrari win upon his return to the Scuderia was certain, Raikkonen was shocked to find himself being asked to pit around lap 32.
When the end result, with Vettel overtaking his pole-sitting teammate to register a fairly easy win (for which the German didn’t have to fight that much) could so easily have scarred Kimi, the Iceman cut a figure of absolute silence on the podium.
His hard-fought P2, in the end, suggesting a man who was desolate but didn’t give in with verbal diarrhea in the end when being clearly backstabbed by the team would have warranted some colorful language.
Even when Kimi won at Abu Dhabi upon his big F1 return, keeping cool amid the heat of the desert, he discarded the desire to offer to express himself all that much. This is when the feeling of being overwhelmed by the win and the gladness it brought along beckoned some emotional telling.
But Kimi, the Iceman, simply told Coulthard, the interviewer, when asked how his emotions were, “Not much, really!”
All of this, therefore, beckons a serious question, not that Kimi would himself care a great deal about it in the end.
Could it be that we have seen the last of a one-of-a-kind racer, who epitomized the no-nonsense persona partnering with calmness in his discarding of dramatics?
And is that why the so-called Raikkonen enigma will hold on to it’s own for times to come?
“Who knows,” seems to be the perfect answer, in Kimi-speak, actually!
Here’s what is known:
Not once in the course of his 347 Grand Prix entries, where it stands now, did Kimi try to please anyone or play to the gallery.
Not once over the course of multiple stints with some of the sport’s most liked and admired teams, think Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and McLaren did Kimi do anything dramatic or on purpose to court attention.
In a sport that’s largely becoming a PR-regimented circus, one driven not only by drivers alone, but also by social media shenanigans, Kimi Raikkonen preferred being himself, doing things the way he felt it.
With frankness, minus any drama, and not to forget- god-speed! Plus, always with a hint of understated passion! Happy 42nd, Iceman! You will be missed. They just won’t say it.
Cartoon – S. Rajnikanth. Words- Dev Tyagi