Having spent two seasons contesting the FIA World Rally Championship alongside selected NASCAR outings, Kimi Räikkönen made an eagerly anticipated and highly successful return to Formula 1 in 2012 with Lotus F1 Team.
Kimi entered the sport in 2001 despite having only 23 races in junior categories under his belt and was quickly recognised as a star for the future. After finishing as runner-up in the Drivers’ Championship to Michael Schumacher in 2003 and Fernando Alonso in 2005, he finally took the title in 2007 during his first year driving for Ferrari.
Grands Prix Contested: 194
World Championships: 1
Race Wins: 20
Pole Positions: 16
Fastest Laps: 39
2012: Return of the Iceman
Citing his desire to once again compete in wheel-to-wheel racing as a source of renewed interest in the sport, Kimi delighted fans and pundits alike by announcing his return to Formula 1 with Lotus F1 Team for the 2012 season. Despite spending two years away from motorsports’ elite category, the Finn instantly demonstrated the skill and technique which has seen him rated as one of the most natural talents of a generation; taking seven podiums and a victory in his comeback year to clinch P3 in the Drivers’ Championship. 2013 sees the Iceman remain with the Enstone squad and touted as a potential Championship contender for the season ahead.
2010 – 2011: Rallying and NASCAR
The FIA World Rally Championship was the destination for Kimi with the Citroën Junior Team in 2010, with a best finish of fifth in the Rally of Turkey. The following year he drove for ICE1RACING, with two sixth places in Jordan and Germany. He combined his rallying with two NASCAR outings.
2007 – 2009: Ferrari and Drivers’ Title
Kimi’s debut for the prancing horse was a fairytale with pole position, fastest lap and the honour of becoming the first driver since Nigel Mansell in 1989 to win on his Ferrari debut. He followed that with a further five wins, stealing the title from under the noses of the battling McLaren duo of Alonso and Lewis Hamilton at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix. The following two seasons were more low-key, finishing third in the standings in 2008, and sixth the following season.
2002 – 2006: The McLaren Years
Such was Kimi’s debut that McLaren moved to sign the young talent for the 2002 season as a replacement for two-time champion and compatriot Mika Häkkinen. He finished third in his debut race with the team and came close to winning the French Grand Prix before taking his maiden victory the following year at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Despite no further wins, a strong run meant he finished second in the title race, just two points adrift of Michael Schumacher.
2004 was to prove frustrating, with Kimi taking McLaren’s only win that year at the Belgian Grand Prix. The following season was more encouraging, as the Finn finished second to Fernando Alonso in the title race with seven wins to his name. 2006 was to prove his final year at McLaren and the momentum did not continue from the year before, with Kimi finishing fifth in the standings.
2001: Formula 1 Debut with Sauber
Kimi scored a point in his debut race with Sauber at the Australian Grand Prix, going on to complete the year having achieved four points scoring finishes and eight top eight placings.
Pre-2000: Karting, Formula Ford and Formula Renault
After an impressive karting career – including placing second in the 1999 European Formula A championship – Kimi competed in the Formula Ford Euro Cup before graduating to the British Formula Renault winter series which he won, subsequently taking the Championship the following year with seven wins from ten starts.
What are your thoughts heading into your second season with Lotus F1 Team?
I’m feeling pretty good. Last year was my return to Formula 1 and it went pretty well. This year will be my second with Lotus F1 Team and my eleventh season overall in Formula 1 so I’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect. I’m sure it will be an exciting season and I’m sure there’ll be lots to talk about. For me, I will continue to do the best I can; let’s see how good our car is, and how good the cars of the opposition are too.
Is the continuity of going into your second season with the team beneficial to you?
It helps. It’s not a massive thing which will suddenly mean you start winning all the races, but it’s nice to be at the same team as you understand how they work, and they understand how you work. We quickly developed a pretty good way of working together last year and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue this season.
Are you still learning as a driver?
I don’t think you ever stop learning, but there is less to learn than if you’re a rookie. I don’t think I could say I’m a rookie. We had new tracks last year; that’s always something nice to learn and for me best learnt on the tracks themselves. There will be a new car which we’ll want to develop and get working at its best. There are always changes in the sport; some small, some big. Generally everything’s pretty similar, and the feeling of racing on track is pretty familiar.
This is the second year of a two-year deal; are you thinking of 2014 and beyond?
I’m not really thinking beyond this season at the moment, but I’m sure there will be talk before the end of the year. I enjoyed my comeback to Formula 1 last year and there’s no reason to say I shouldn’t enjoy the 2013 season too. I know there will be big changes to the cars and regulations for 2014, so who’s to say that won’t be exciting.
Have you set yourself targets and objectives for the season?
To do the best job I can. I’ve not driven the E21 yet so it’s difficult to say what could or could not be possible. We know we had a good car last season, but everyone is working hard to make the best car. I will be working with the team to help get the car as strong as we can, then in Melbourne we’ll have our first taste of results. It’s a long season from there. 2012 was a good start; let’s see what we can do in 2013.
Do you think the team has what it takes to win a championship?
Yes, I think they do. It’s clear from working with them that they are racers, and you can see in their history that they’ve won championships. Nothing I saw last year made me think that another championship was impossible in the future. Of course, there is some pretty tough competition out there and everyone wants to win. The team have beaten everyone before and there’s nothing to say they can’t do it again.
Are you looking forward to working with Romain again?
We had a pretty good relationship last year and it’s clear he’s fast and motivated. On track we were pretty close to each other at times but we didn’t have any issues. It’s good when you have a team-mate who’s fast and works hard. I think we should be fine in 2013.
Do you think you proved a point in 2012?
Maybe for other people, but not for myself. I knew I could still perform well in Formula 1 given the right opportunity; it was only other people who had doubts.