Kimi comes back to rallying
Kimi Raikkonen will squeeze in a rally in between the Spanish and Monaco grands prix next month – but sadly he won’t be competing. Or will he?
The 2007 Formula One World Champion – who competed full-time in the WRC from 2010-2011 – will be attending the start of the 15th anniversary Gumball Rally, which starts from Copenhagen on May 18th. After that, we’ll have to wait and see.
The Gumball Rally isn’t quite rallying as we know it: instead it’s all about a load of supercars driving around Europe – a bit like the Carrera Panamericana, but with better parties. As one team’s motto puts it: “we don’t drive fast, we fly low.” But as it’s all on public roads, officially there is no competitive element.
And while Kimi isn’t taking part, he has some very good friends who are: car number 34’s team description is simply: “four crazy Finns.” The Finns in question are the ‘Dudeson brothers’: four Finnish stuntmen with their own TV show, which is broadly the equivalent of Jackass.
The first stage is from Copenhagen to Stockholm, followed by a stage from Stockholm to Helsinki – and rumours keep persisting that car 34 might have an unscheduled guest driver on the opening leg…
Other confirmed drivers for the Gumball include the legend that is David Hasselhoff and a car crewed by members of the band Cypress Hill, as well as professional skier Jon Olsson.
The Gumball 3000 finishes in Monaco, after going via St Petersburg, Tallinn, Riga, Warsaw and Vienna.
Kimi Räikkönen keen to make ‘fun’ rally return after F1
Kimi Raikkonen is keen to return to rallying "for fun" after his Formula 1 career is over.
The 32-year-old Finn has no plans to walk away from grand prix racing and has impressed on his comeback after two years competing in the World Rally Championship.
But when his time in F1 does come to an end in the future, he wants to try his hand at rallying again.
"I will do it for fun," Raikkonen told AUTOSPORT. "The one reason why I wanted to do it in the first place was to see if I can do it or not.
"I’m a big fan of it and I always thought it was so difficult that I wanted to see what happens.
"I still want to improve in it and try to do well. It’s something that, when I’m a bit older, I can do and have fun with. I will definitely do it when I have more time.
"I enjoy both [rallying and F1]. I would like to do both of them at the same time but because of timetables, schedules and other reasons it’s not possible."
Raikkonen denied the suggestion that his return to F1 was indicative that he has lost interest in rallying.
But Raikkonen did admit that he missed the wheel-to-wheel aspect of racing.
"It’s not that I lost interest in rallying," said Raikkonen. "It’s just that I’ve always raced in my life and when you race against each other it’s different to just doing times.
"I enjoy racing against people. It’s why I came back, to have a fight against others.
"It’s completely different to last year in rallying. When I did NASCAR [in 2011] I enjoyed it a lot and even though it is very different to F1, it’s still racing against each other.
"I had a good time. I kind of missed it [racing]."
Raikkonen and rallying: Why it’s not over yet
It was a cold, crispy day in Andalusia: not a sentence that you read too frequently about a region that is nicknamed ‘the frying pan of Spain’. And suddenly, it got a lot colder: icy cold in fact.
What had caused the chill was the arrival – or to be strictly accurate, the return – of the Iceman. After two years of the World Rally Championship, Kimi Raikkonen was back in Formula 1 – and straight away he topped the timesheets at the very first test in Jerez. In fact, Raikkonen was one of only two drivers to go fastest during two of the 12 days of pre-season testing.
What does this tell you? Firstly that in terms of raw talent, there is no one out there faster than Raikkonen. Secondly, that rallying is an even bigger technical challenge than circuit racing – but one that still prepares you perfectly for the split second demands of F1.
The reasons why Kimi decided not to continue in the WRC this year were largely financial (but born out of economy rather than avarice): in F1 he is earning money – and enough of it – rather than spending in the WRC. In many ways, it’s easier to get a paid drive in F1 than the WRC at the moment, ridiculous as it sounds. But this only underlines the quality of the drivers who make it to the top of the sport.
For Kimi, rallying is very much unfinished business. Far from turning his back on rallying, Kimi is very keen to come back – and he may even do a few events while he is driving in F1. There are no grands prix on during Rally Finland weekend this year after all…
And Kimi, being the free spirit that he is, will only have signed a deal with Lotus (formerly Renault) on his own terms – allowing him to do what he wants, exactly when he wants to, just as he has always done. For a taste of that, people in the UK should watch Top Gear this weekend. It’s the Iceman at his brilliant best, demonstrating that he can be just as quick in a Reasonably Priced Car as he can in a 500,000 Euro World Rally Car.
"I really enjoyed rallying and I know that I always will," he says. "The decision I made to go back to Formula 1 was not because I didn’t like rallying anymore. It’s the biggest challenge that I have ever done. From when I was growing up, I always had a lot of respect for rally drivers. And now, I think that respect is even bigger."
Let’s just be thankful that Kimi turned down the lucrative offer he received to drive in NASCAR, which would have made it practically impossible for him to sit in a rally car at all (because of the 30-plus weekends of racing a year, rather than the oversized burgers).
As it is, we’ve not seen the last of the Iceman yet. Expect him back sooner rather than later…
Kimi: a potential unfulfilled
By returning to Formula One following two seasons in the World Rally Championship the itch has been scratched for Kimi Raikkonen – but to what extent that has provided relief remains to be seen.
Ousted (but still paid for) by Ferrari at the end of 2009, he explained that the circumstances were finally right for him to get a few answers to some questions he had been asking himself for a while: would his sublime natural talent and his inherent speed translate just as fluently to rally stages as it did to a race track?
Circuit racing came as naturally to Kimi as breathing: when he made his Formula One debut, he only had 23 car races behind him – a fact that caused some consternation among his colleagues.
“I wanted to try rallying; I don’t have to be so serious about it,” says Raikkonen. “I was always curious to know if I could stay on the road and keep pushing. It was very different from Formula One.”
His detractors would say that it proved to be too different, but Kimi knew what to expect.
“On a circuit you know every inch of it and it doesn’t really change from lap to lap. You do exactly the same things every time. On a rally everything is different. There are no corners that are the same: even a right 2 will not be the same corner as the next right 2. Of course you have much less margin for error.”
In the end, two years was never really going to be enough to make it to the top: as his co-driver Kaj Lindstrom warned him, this was going to be a three-year project or longer. People will say that Sebastien Loeb or Sebastien Ogier were instantly quick in a World Rally Car for the first time, but they conveniently forget the thousands of stage kilometres that will have been driven on national rallies and in testing, as well as the inherent ease that these drivers have with pace notes.
Given that Kimi never even liked engineers talking to him over the radio in Formula One, and that the sum of his rallying experience now puts him roughly where Jari-Matti Latvala was when he was 20, the Iceman’s results have been pretty impressive, with consistent top six finishes this year.
Extrapolating the trajectory of his learning curve, next year he could well have been in a position to challenge for podiums, with the chance of a win perhaps coming in 2013.
The highs were his fifth place on Turkey – only his fourth WRC event – and a debut stage win on the Circus Maximus superspecial in Germany; the lows included the shakedown accident that put him out of RallyRACC-Rally de Espana last year and a banal road section accident that curtailed his activities in France.
Whatever you think about Kimi, it’s impossible to deny that his star quality has made a huge impact on the World Rally Championship and that he’s finally answered his own question. Yes he can do it – but it’s hardly the work of a moment.
Da YLE.fi, traduzione Nicole@KRForum Ufficiale
Latvala: They put way too much pressure on Kimi
According to Latvala they put way too much pressure on Räikkönen in the rally-circles.
– Kimi brought the genre a lot of media-visibility and a lot of new fans. Even many reporters who had never before followed rally started to follow it, Latvala said to YLE Urheilu.
– When Kimi came to rally they put way too much pressure on him. Little by little he started to relax but the expectations placed on him were way too hard.
According to Latvala the Iceman’s motivation seemed to go downhill during the autumn.
– Let’s just say that I started to notice how Kimi’s motivation towards rallying started to take off during the last races. Maybe him not being satisfied with the results and his F1-thoughts had something to do with it.
Da Elisa.net, traduzione Nicole@KRForum Ufficiale
"Räikkönen drove completely reasonable times"
They believe that Kimi Räikkönen’s rallying career is over for now when he is seriously negotiating about a comeback to F1. Kimi drove in WRC for only two seasons but the difference to the top has been several minutes. His best result is Rally Turkey in 2010 when he came in 5th.
SWRC-serie’s world champion from this year, Juho Hänninen with Skoda, was often faster than Räikkönen although Räikkönen drove in a class higher with a WRC-car. Still Hänninen thinks that Räikkönen’s performances in rally were good.
– I think that it was a realistic result. Maybe the majority expected more and I bet Kimi himself also expected more, however Kimi realised pretty quickly that it isn’t that easy. Still he made good times especially when driving a stage for the second time since he remembered them better. That’s when he drove completely reasonable times, Hänninen told Sport Content.
Hänninen reminded that rallying requires a lot of training and that it takes several years to develop into a top driver.
– Nobody can succeed in this without practice, Hänninen said.
It was fun while it lasted, but the adventure is over – Kimi Raikkonen is leaving the forests and heading back to Formula 1 with Renault, or rather Lotus, as the team becomes in 2012.
Two years ago, it had all seemed so promising. The world knew Raikkonen was ultra-rapid but had lost motivation in F1. It was the politics and the sponsor pressure that he appeared to have tired of, not the driving, and he loved dabbling in rallying on the side. The World Rally Championship gave him a chance to get back to pure driving, in a more laidback atmosphere in which he could thrive in time – especially with Citroen, Red Bull and Kaj Lindstrom behind him.
It wasn’t just going to be good for Kimi’s morale either: the arrival of such a big name was a massive publicity bonus for the WRC and saw a huge number of hitherto disinterested new fans heading to the stages or tuning in to Rally Radio to follow Raikkonen’s rise to the top in his new challenge.
Except it didn’t quite work out like that. Inevitably Raikkonen was some way off Citroen Junior team-mate Sebastien Ogier’s pace in 2010, and inevitably he went off the road a lot as he got to grips with such a different discipline. But this was nothing that time, patience and mileage couldn’t fix, especially as there were flashes of promising speed along the way.
Time was what the WRC and Raikkonen marriage did not have, though. It wasn’t far into 2011 before it became clear that his heart was elsewhere. There were rallies skipped (missing Australia meant his Ice 1 team was kicked out of the standings) and events not rejoined under superally even when it was easily possible and the extra mileage would’ve been so beneficial. It was the extra-curricular outings that were most telling, though. Whereas once rallying had been Raikkonen’s release from the drudgery of F1, now he was popping up in NASCAR Trucks and Peugeot LMP1 cars as an escape from the WRC – and also becoming pivotal to the F1 driver market. Even as he did so, his stage times got a little better, and his demeanour with fans and the WRC media became slightly more open (by Iceman standards), hinting at what might have been.
So farewell and good luck, Kimi. We would’ve loved to see you stick around, give rallying a proper chance and really hone your skills, but it was better to have had you with us for two years than not at all.
Lindström: "F1 is Kimi’s world"
To Kaj Lindström the news about the return to F1 did not come as a surprise.
Lindström doesn’t want to specify when Kimi told him about his decision. Lindström didn’t try to talk the F1-champion out of it.
– It was Kimi’s decision, I respect it. Great that he got a good contract, Lindström said to Iltalehti.
According to Lindström Räikkönen would have had a chance to go forward in rally if he had decided to continue in the sport. Lindström has earlier talked about rally as at least a 4-year project if the goal is to succeed. The co-driver doesn’t fret though that the cooperation ended.
– We went year at a time, that was clear from the start. You don’t instantly jump to the top. There was two great and sweet years. It was nice to work and drive with Kimi, Lindström thanked.
"Kimi will do fine"
Although Räikkönen was believed to enjoy himself better in rally’s more barren environment than in F1’s society, according to Lindström that is not exactly the case.
– F1 is his world. I think he might be more comfortable there.
Lindström learned to know Räikkönen during the two years. That’s why he’s going to follow next F1-season with a special interest, with "very different feelings".
Predictions about success he is not going to give though.
– I had to compare the sports for two years until boredom, although I have never sat in a F1-car, so it’s difficult to comment on that. The driver at least is talented, so I’m pretty sure he’ll do fine, Lindström laughed.
Da iltalehti.fi, traduzione Leijona@F1CoffeForum
Hirvonen hopes Kimi stays in WRC
World Rally Championship runner-up Mikko Hirvonen wants Kimi Raikkonen to continue in the WRC in 2012 rather than returning to Formula One.
Raikkonen, the 2007 Formula One world champion, has been linked to a drive with the Williams team next season having spent two years competing in the WRC, finishing 10th overall in 2010 and 2011.
Hirvonen, who will switch to the factory Citroen team for next year’s WRC, said of his fellow Finn during an interview with World Rally Radio: “I hope he continues. Two years is not enough to get the experience from the recce and for the pace notes. He’s made progress, okay the last few rallies [of the season] were not so good but I hope he continues. It would be good for rallying.”
What could have been Raikkonen’s final appearance in the WRC ended in disappointment when he retired after rolling his ICE 1 Racing Citroen DS3 WRC on the opening stage of Wales Rally GB’s third day. He and co-driver Kaj Lindstrom were sixth overall at the time of the incident.
Prior to the event Raikkonen told his official website: “I just focus on this rally. That’s all that matters. What happens in the future is still an open question.”