Kimi Raikkonen: Laidback Lada driver to reluctant Ferrari star
"What do you call a Lada driver with a speeding ticket? A liar."
Kimi Raikkonen might not have heard that old joke about the much-maligned car, an icon of the Soviet era, but it might give him a chuckle.
"I had a Russian Lada," the Formula One star revealed as he took CNN’s The Circuit for a spin in a flashy sports car provided by his team Ferrari.
"I got it from a friend of ours. We changed the engine. It was perfect for us — free of charge and a very robust car.
"It was red but we painted it black. It never broke down."
The Finn now drives one of the world’s fastest vehicles on the F1 racetrack — which he definitely wouldn’t be allowed to paint black — but the down-to-earth approach of his first car beautifully sums up his underlying normality.
The man they call the "Iceman" is Formula One’s most reluctant star.
The 34-year-old is known for his succinct, cool answers when facing the media. And while he doesn’t say much, he often says what he thinks.
Perhaps his most famous admission came in 2006 when he explained he missed the presentation for the retiring Michael Schumacher, the man he was going to replace at Ferrari the following year, because he was in the bathroom — or words to that effect.
Then there are the off-track headlines, like the time he was filmed falling off a boat during a party.
Raikkonen’s pithy comments and antics have made him a cult icon among F1 fans but he insists he would rather stay out of the spotlight.
"It’d be perfect to lead a normal life where nobody notices you," he tells CNN. "But obviously you cannot have both.
"Racing and driving is the main thing but there’s a lot of other stuff that comes with it.
"I’ve been long enough in the business to know that it’s a big part of it. For me, it’s not much fun.
"I’m not a big fan of going places and showing off, I’d rather do my own things. I never try to hide it because it is how it is."
Unlike many other drivers on the grid, Raikkonen is also refreshingly honest about his childhood ambitions while growing up in the city of Espoo.
"I wouldn’t say I wanted to become a Formula One driver straight away," he explains.
"I actually started out with motocross when I was a small boy and then go-karts. It was good fun and you start wanting more.
"But I still didn’t believe that I would even make it to F1 because we didn’t have the money.
"I just thought I’d do karts for as long as possible and then do something else."
That something else was two titles in the British Formula Renault Championship.
After just 23 races, Raikkonen was signed up by Sauber and fast-tracked into F1 for the 2001 season.
He won his first grand prix with McLaren in 2003 and his first and only world title with Ferrari in 2007 before the Italian team effectively paid up the rest of his salary to bring in Fernando Alonso for the 2010 season.
Officially retired from F1, Raikkonen flexed his driving muscles in the World Rally Championships and got behind the wheel for two NASCAR races.
His team radio in the U.S. series endeared him to new fans with such quotable outbursts as: "I don’t understand how this car can be so hot. My ass is even burning in here."
"I really enjoy the whole NASCAR thing," Raikkonen recalls. "It’s just completely different and fun. It was a good experience.
"Hopefully I can do more (races) some day. I’ve said I’d like to do some more rallies in the future."
For now, F1’s reluctant star is focused on finishing his second spell in the sport with Ferrari, having returned to Maranello after two seasons with Lotus in which he re-established himself on the grid despite the team’s financial problems.
With two wins and 15 podiums he became hot property, and replaced Felipe Massa at the home of the "Prancing Horse."
The 34-year-old, who has struggled with an under-performing car this season, says he plans to finish his career with the Italian marque but is giving nothing away on when exactly that might be.
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel is expected to sign for Ferrari next year, with Alonso tipped to return to McLaren.
"I have a contract for next year and probably for one more year," Raikkonen says. "But I’m not a young guy anymore.
"I want to do something more with my life than just Formula One. I will finish my career in Ferrari.
"I never lost the passion. I will stop the day when I feel I don’t enjoy it anymore."
A new chapter is about to begin for Raikkonen in the near future when his girlfriend Minttu Virtanen gives birth to their first child.
"The biggest challenge will be with a family," he says. "That will take a lot of time and effort."
Asked if he would encourage his child to follow him into motor racing, he gives a typically direct and definitive "No!"
Raikkonen might not be keen on small talk but he is looking forward to discussing fatherhood with Vettel, his closest friend in F1, who became a father to a baby daughter earlier this year.
"The guy I have most to do with outside of racing is Vettel," he says. "The rest I don’t really see as friends, I race against them.
"He’s just a normal guy and it’s an easy relationship."
On the subject of sharing baby tips with the German, Raikkonen adds: "Yes, he has more experience…"
He might be one of F1’s most-enigmatic and best-loved stars, and still among the highest earners, but in many ways he has stayed true to his roots.
"I have normal cars," he explains. "Maybe when I was young I was a bit more like, ‘This nice car, I want to have this and drive this.’
"Not anymore. I drive normal cars without people noticing me, so it makes my life easy."
Dare we suggest, Raikkonen might have rewound time by swapping a Ferrari for a beat-up Lada?
Raikkonen: Nothing wrong with my driving style
Kimi Raikkonen does not see the need to change his driving style to suit the Ferrari F14 T when the team still has issues with the car to resolve.
Raikkonen’s first season back at Ferrari since 2009 has been a challenging one, though there have been marked signs of improvement since the summer break. In Singapore Raikkonen said the Ferrari felt better than it had all season, but he is adamant there is nothing he needs to change from a personal standpoint to improve his results further.
“No, I don’t see the point of me changing my driving style,” Raikkonen said when asked if he had considered changing it to suit the Ferrari. “I couldn’t drive differently any faster. The issue is not with how I drive but how we fix the issue, then we will have a good result.
“I can drive around some issues but I hope we can fix the main issue and drive as I always do. I’ve been driving in Formula One for quite a few years and have never changed it and will never change it. It’s not the right way of fixing the problems.”
But Raikkonen believes patience will continue to be the key for Ferrari, both for the end of 2014 and with the work being done for 2015.
“I think we knew from the beginning certain things would take time, certain things cannot be changed in certain cars. There a lot of small things that, when you put them together, make a big difference. It’s not one major thing that you change out of the blue.
“We have improved race by race and made some steps, got better feelings, some new parts to help with that. The tyres, in those conditions, was the best feeling there has been. It became easier to drive again and once you get that feeling it becomes much easier – you don’t have to guess what’s going to happen every corner or fight with the car.”
Raikkonen says he has no worries about his F1 future with Ferrari
Kimi Raikkonen says he has no worries about his Formula 1 future at Ferrari, despite the uncertainty surrounding team-mate Fernando Alonso.
While Alonso and Ferrari are set for intense discussions to decide whether or not they should continue their partnership, Raikkonen says he is thinking only of a more successful 2015 campaign at Maranello.
The Finn believes that changes that have begun to be implemented under new team boss Marco Mattiacci are working, and have left him convinced that Ferrari is the right place for him.
When asked if, after a recent restructuring at Ferrari, he felt safe, Raikkonen said: “I think they have the right people.
“There have been quite a lot of changes and knowing how they do things, it is different at the factory.
“I think the changes with [James] Allison, and with all the people around him and all the guys at the factory, we have a good group of people.
“They have changed certain things to make sure that the mistakes that have happened in the past years will not happen anymore.
“Obviously it takes a while, but I 100 per cent believe in people and that at Ferrari we can turn it around and put the team where it should be. That should be in the front.
“For myself I have a contract and I have no worries.”
- Antonio is a smart and pleasant guy. I know him already from before, but from a different role. In race situations you have to make quick decisions. When you are making these decisions in your first year, it’s definitely not easy, no matter how long you have been watching from the sidelines.
-"I wouldn’t do any better with that kind of experience, if I would be the one making the decisions on the pitwall".
- When you get used to it, it gets easier and Antonio has improved immensely since the start of the season.
- It would probably have been a bit easier with Stella, but in the end I don’t think it would have made a difference. It was good having Lloyd there for a couple of races. Spagnolo could concentrate on the job he knows best.
- Another engineer in charge of communication is nothing new in my career. Mark Slade also used to be a bit nervous, when decisions had to be made quickly, and we had another guy in the radio those times as well, which made a lot of things easier and Mark could concentrate on making the right calls without speaking to me at the same time.
- In the same way, I think this arrangement is good for us.
Kimi Raikkonen: Marco Mattiacci good for Ferrari F1 team
Kimi Raikkonen is encouraged by new Ferrari Formula 1 team boss Marco Mattiacci’s approach to turning the Scuderia’s ailing fortunes around.
Mattiacci took over from outgoing team principal Stefano Domenicali in April, and insisted after the recent Austrian Grand Prix that Ferrari has a recovery plan in place to improve its disappointing form.
Finn Raikkonen, who is struggling with his own issues with the handling of Ferrari’s F14 T, reckons the work Mattiacci has done since he arrived is cause for optimism within the team.
"Everybody has their own way of doing things – it’s very early days for Marco, and when he started he didn’t have as much knowledge as Stefano of F1, but he’s a very nice guy and he wants to really make a difference and know the sport," Raikkonen said during the Austrian Grand Prix weekend.
"Those are good signs. He’s doing a lot of work that people don’t see and I think he’s doing a very good job.
"He’s a good guy to work with; he’s just a different person from Stefano.
"I had a pretty close relationship with Stefano but it’s just a change for all of us, and I think sometimes that’s a good thing.
"People come from outside of F1 with a different view of things and it can help.
"It’s been good so far and I’m expecting he can do a very good job."
Da SportWeek (La Gazzetta dello Sport) del 12/04/2014 (e riescono pure a far resuscitare i cani…)
Da La Stampa del 29/03/2014:
E le domande video:
Kimi Raikkonen says immediate fix to F1 Ferrari issues unlikely
Kimi Raikkonen does not know how long it will take to fix the issues he is having getting comfortable with the set-up of his new Ferrari Formula 1 car.
The Finn endured a troubled time at last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix as he struggled with the handling of the new F14 T, especially under braking and corner entry.
His problems were further exacerbated in the race by front tyre graining, which led to a number of lock-ups.
Ferrari and Raikkonen are working on fixes to the way the energy recovery systems impact on the car’s handling, but the 2007 world champion admits that things are unlikely to get better immediately.
"We know more or less what we want to do, but some things are not happening overnight," said Raikkonen.
"It takes time to produce certain parts, or to have a certain way of putting the things on.
"We also cannot promise that it is going to fix the issues once we get something that we want.
"I have been in these situations before and sometimes it takes a while.
"Unfortunately it is not the easiest position right now, but looking at how difficult everything was, we got everything out of it.
"It is not what we want to achieve but it could have been even worse. I am sure we can only get better from there."
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali reiterated that the team is doing everything it can to help Raikkonen, and he hopes progress can be made in time for the next grand prix in Malaysia.
"We need to help Kimi try to find the right balance in the car," he said. "He deserves that.
"There was an improvement [this weekend], but we are still not where we want to be.
"As a team we have to make sure that everything will be done to help his driving style and I am sure for Malaysia it will be much better."