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The Iceman: Never Fazed by the Heat of the Battle

Written by Radhika Pareek, Edited by Mara Simion

The Iceman on his way to win for Ferrari; Image Credits - Scuderia Ferrari

On 8th September 2000, a 21-year-old Kimi Räikkönen seated himself in an F1 car for the first time, leaving an indelible mark on Team Principal and owner, Peter Sauber. To divert attention from competitors and keep his mysterious identity hidden, Räikkönen was nicknamed “the Eskimo”, and later in his career “the Iceman”.

After more tests in the car, Räikkönen was signed by Sauber-Petronas for his first F1 season in 2001. Although he faced some challenges obtaining his Super Licence which he would require to drive the car, he was soon given the green light by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).

The Iceman began his F1 career in 2001 at the Australian Grand Prix. He had a strong first year, finishing with four points and eight top-eight finishes. Along with teammate Nick Heidfeld, he finished the year with nine points, which helped Sauber achieve its best finish in the Constructors' Championship at the time: the fourth place.

In 2002, Räikkönen replaced Mika Häkkinen at McLaren-Mercedes. Before retiring, the two times Formula One champion told Team Principal Ron Dennis: “If you want to win, get the Finn.” Räikkönen bagged four podiums and a total of 24 points that year.

His breakthrough win was at the 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix, a race he conquered from the seventh position. That year, he narrowly lost the championship to Michael Schumacher by a mere 2 points, a gap exacerbated by the mechanical troubles of his MP4-17D.

Image Credits : Wikimedia Commons

The 2005 F1 season was a thrilling one, with Räikkönen competing for the Championship against Renault driver, Fernando Alonso. The Finn ended the season in second place, with seven wins and multiple podiums. He also received the F1 Racing magazine’s “Driver of the Year” accolade and the Autosport magazine’s “International Racing Driver of the Year” award.

After an uncompetitive 2006 season, the Iceman announced that he was leaving McLaren-Mercedes to join Scuderia Ferrari for a three year contract from 2007 to 2009. After a tiring season in 2007, Räikkönen managed to defeat Alonso and Lewis Hamilton by one point, winning his first ever Formula One season. Although McLaren were disqualified from the Constructors’ Championship, the stewards decided to keep the Drivers’ standings the same. Räikkönen’s win in 2007 remains the most recent Championship win in Formula One for Scuderia Ferrari.

Image Credits : PlanetF1

Räikkönen left F1 in 2010, despite his contract with Scuderia Ferrari, to pursue a career in rallying and stock cars. However, he soon returned to F1 in 2012. He joined Lotus for two years, before moving back to Scuderia Ferrari in 2014. With Lotus, the Iceman scored 390 points in two seasons. Gérard Lopéz, the team manager, undoubtedly did not anticipate such a result, and the agreement he had reached to pay €50,000 per point nearly resulted in bankruptcy, with the points bonus alone guaranteeing Raikkonen €19.5 million.

Image Credits : Eurosport

Räikkönen stayed in Ferrari until 2018, after which he joined Alfa Romeo. The Finn did well in his seasons with Ferrari and showed significant improvement in his qualifying performances. He ended his last season with Ferrari by finishing the Driver’s Championship in third place. While in Alfa Romeo, the Iceman broke the record for the most race starts in Formula One history during his 323rd race start and won the FIA “Action of the Year” award for overtaking ten cars at the Portuguese Grand Prix in 2020. He eventually retired in 2021, ending a long and illustrious career.

By a number of metrics, Räikkönen remains the most successful Finnish Formula One driver. He ranks sixth in Formula One history, in terms of podium places (103), third in fastest laps (46), and second in race starts (349).


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