Monday, October 24, 2011

Kimi: The Iceman cometh back!

Courtesy: Sleenster -

Translation of Kimi interview by Mar

Kimi Räikkonen is not a mystery, regardless of the reputation stating the opposite he has worked hard for. As a matter of fact, he is one of the most natural but misunderstood character in motorsport. The only thing he wants is to win… in the most efficient way. Is there something more logical than that?

But some people make the mistake of confusing lack of communication with lack of motivation when, in reality, truth is the opposite. What it’s regarded as a monosyllabic attitude in life (what incited The Red Bulletin, the paddock magazine, to publish a photographic reportage called “the 12 mood states of Kimi Räikkönen”… where all 12 pictures were identical) is not even true: Kimi has a lot to tell when there is something interesting to say or, what is more important, something it is worth it to answer to.

The bad part of a courtesy conversation is that it does not make sense. Let’s be sincere: truth is that nobody is interested in the weather or how the trip was. And this is just when we talk about normal life: imagine it in the strained environment of F1, where the air releases as much absorption as designer lotions and hidden intentions are everywhere.

Therefore, Kimi prefers to keep a respectable silence about the recent frenzy linking him to several F1 teams… even if he admits his return is possible. But many things are possible, including life in Mars and truth is that there’s nothing agreed for 2012. Kimi Räikkönen’s agenda for next year is empty… at least at the moment

“Truth is that there is nothing at the moment, and it makes no sense to talk until I have something 100% confirmed”, he states with his characteristic sincerity. One of the reasons why Kimi not always says much is because he doesn’t like to lie.

For Kimi’s big disconcertion, rumours are the par of the course in F1. There are two possibilities: you play the game, add fuel to the fire and face the gradual process of believing you’re somebody (special), or you don’t play. But there’s also a third alternative: to say what you think and be above the politicking. Nevertheless, that’s also problematic. The most important thing is that, whatever you say, somebody will try to use it against you sooner or later. It’s better just to focus on the driving, which is of course the only reason why you’re here.

“The bullshit?- Kimi blurts out when he’s asked about the hype of the media- Ha! I suppose, it’s normal; it’s part of the world we live in. They’re always going to write it so, who cares about it? Truth is that I don’t mind what they write, because it can’t be changed. As a matter of fact, if you try to change it, you will only make it worse; therefore, why even make the effort and try to change it? If somebody says “it was not this way, in reality it was that way”, it will only give them more ideas to keep on writing and the snow-ball gets bigger and bigger. But, does it really matter if it’s the truth or not? Nobody cares about that”.

Hypocrisy and unfairness are two of the things that Kimi dislikes the most. The paradox of being a world-wide known person with a huge personal fortune is that the person will be in a very isolated position. It’s difficult to know who you can trust and who is just interested in a bit of boulevard press.

That is one of the reasons- but not the main one- why Kimi changed to the WRC in 2010. “From the beginning, I felt that rally-people are more interested in the sport and whatever happens in the stages and not in making up stupid articles with big headlines outside them- he points out-. In F1, you say something and the press twists it, giving form to a story that says: “Mr. so-and-so said this”… even if it’s simply not true. They usually write more about other things than about the sport. In rallies, it doesn’t happen so often; they have a different way of thinking”.

But Kimi admits, it doesn’t surprise him that people want to know what he is going to do next. After all, he could be the key for the F1 driver market of 2012 (Note, in Spanish it’s not clear if it’s the driver market in 2012 or the driver market that gives the 2012 grid), with so many people unfocussed at the moment thinking in a drive in Red Bull or Ferrari in 2013, not to talk about Mercedes. Kimi doesn’t fall into the trap, but in 2013 he would be a perfect candidate for, both, Red Bull and Mercedes (because they always try to be cooler), but a hypothetical return to his old teams McLaren or Ferrari would be very improbable, not to say impossible. In the mean while, it is not a secret that he has visited Williams, and the situation in Renault is still not clear as Robert Kubica’s recovery continues. That’s supposing Kimi goes somewhere: if he wanted, he could just quit and do nothing, or keep on rallying. Both are very real possibilities.

“There are many different possibilities and, of course, a lot of speculation- he says-. But most of them are quite surprising for me. Look, I could tell you that I’m going to do Nascar and you could tell about it, but, maybe, at the end it doesn’t happen and then it would mean I have been telling bullshit. Or I could say I’m going to do demolition races (Note: what’s that?) and you would not believe me. But maybe, at the end, you would be surprised,… you see? It doesn’t make sense to speculate until there’s something sure, because anything could happen. Being sincere, not even I know yet. Probably some people talk too much when they should focus in other things”.

That’s how Kimi sees it and, you know what? It happens that he’s right. A top driver, famous for his know-how in front of the media, recently stated that he envies Kimi. “He did it right from the beginning, didn’t he?- that driver said-. I wish I could be like Kimi and concentrate only in the driving, without distractions. Some people say he’s stupid, but he knows very well what he does. He is very intelligent”.

If somebody intended to climb the Everest- which, anecdotically, is considered to be the biggest challenge of modern times-, he would not waste time in unnecessary small talk. Moreover, he would not make many conjectures about reaching the top of the mountain or not, until he were close to it. But, nevertheless, many more people have climbed the Everest than people have won the F1 World Championship.

Kimi is one of the 32 people who made it, but under circumstances that even he admits were a bit surreal. We all can remember that 3 drivers arrived to this last race with chances of winning the title, and that Kimi was the first one to win it from the 3rd position in the classification since Giuseppe Farina in 1950. An impressive feat but, paradoxically, it was simple for Kimi because the only thing he had to do was to race and win the race: there was no other condition. And that is the kind of task the Iceman can do best.

“I’m not sure about winning the title as my best memory, but for sure, it is one of the best- he says in quite a surprising manner-. We begun well and had a very hard patch in the middle of the season, but afterwards we improved again and we won. I’m sure, we could have done some things differently, but it was our first year. Even if it was the best car, it took some time to take everything out of it. This happens sometimes: in 2005, our McLaren was also very good, but it would not finish the races…”.

If Kimi comes back to F1, it’s possible that he won’t have the chance of having the best car: not a McLaren or a Ferrari or a Red Bull. But this means, he will have nothing else to think about except driving as fast as possible and show what the car can do: that would motivate, both, him and his team. One of Kimi’s most impressive seasons was his debut year in the underestimated Sauber team; the result was the best ever classification of the team in the constructors championship prior to the entry of BMW.

And if Kimi came back, maybe he would not care about having the best possible material as much as before. “Of course, you always want a winning car, a top car. But, as we could see this season, there’s only one team that has that top car- he says-. It’s not that you can chose or know it. Some teams make a good car one season; other seasons their car is not so good. There are very little differences between a good and a bad car. At the end of the day, you have to accelerate hard”.

Nevertheless, what Kimi values the most is his own freedom. In the moment he feels cornered, it’s over. In 2009, Kimi was the 2nd best paid athlete of the world, behind Tiger Woods, but not even that was enough to keep him in F1once he felt he was being pushed aside (remember how much he dislikes hypocrisy and unfairness). Heading to 2010, he turned down several options, among them a very lucrative one: it is not money what motivates him.

On the other hand, it does motivate him the idea of committing to a completely new challenge… that happen to be rallying. “I simply had the curiosity to know if I could keep it on the road and keep driving- he tells about his decision to go to the WRC-. It is very different to F1. So I had the curiosity to know if I also could do it, because when you see the guys who do it all the time, they make it look easy. Truth is that it’s one of the most difficult things you can do. Each curve is different, even two curves with exactly the same note- like “right two”- can be completely different. If you make a mistake, there is a tree or a rock and not a gravel trap. It is something I wanted to try, but I don’t have to take it so seriously. If it seems to me that I don’t want to do it any longer, I can just leave it right now”. Conclusion: it is even more difficult to win to Sébastien Loeb than Sebastian Vettel.

Kimi got carried away by his desire to roll on the mud when he entered an Abarth Grande Punto S2000 in the 2009 Finland Rally (the car election was imposed by his contract with the Fiat Group) and even managed to appear in the 3rd position of his category before he crashed in a spectacular way. His older brother, Rami, is a rally driver too, so it’s something that it’s in the family. The most difficult thing for Kimi was to get used to the notes. But it is not something to wonder about: when he was racing in F1, Kimi was not one of those drivers who love to get different radio messages all race long: Kimi used to consider them an annoying interference that distracted him from his real driving job. But, to be fair, that is what Kimi thinks about most of the things.

Contrary to the F1, in the WRC tests are allowed during the season. What very few people know is that, during those tests, when the teams run up and down the same road section, Kimi has comfortably been faster than his team mates... and among them are Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier, the two fastest drivers in the WRC. But it is like this because Kimi knows precisely where he’s heading to and he can rely on his incomparable reflexes instead of being dependent on another person telling him what he has to do.

Benoît Nogier, Kimi’s sport director in the rallies, notices: “with regard to the speed, I would say Kimi is extraordinary. He is not afraid of anything. He has a very instinctive feeling for the car; you can perfectly understand why he is a champion. But there are some areas where he can improve; I think this is normal for somebody with his experience level. In some senses, coming from F1 makes it more difficult, since you arrive with preconceived ideas about how to drive a car. You have to open your mind and begin from scratch again”.

That is something Kimi has always mastered in. In addition to rallying, this year he has tried Nascar and the Peugeot 908 of Le Mans, which, as he explains, was like driving a fishbowl with a lot of power. “I found the Le Mans car interesting but, to be sincere, the steering was a s*** and the windscreen was very weird; it distorted the sight… maybe because it is very rounded- Kimi says-. I can’t imagine how it must be when it is smeared with oil and dirt after racing for a while. But I enjoyed it and the car was good, even if they told me it had less power than in previous years. It had been a very long time I had not driven in a circuit, except for the Nascar races, but those took place in ovals, something totally different”.

Doing something different is what inspires Kimi at the moment: it is the chance to be himself. It doesn’t mean that he has that Casanova live-style some people have wrongly ascribed to him; it is more that, now, he has the chance to enjoy a bit of normality. Is that to much to ask for? For example, it is possible that some might be surprised to know that Kimi’s favourite means of transport is a diesel Volkswagen Caravelle. He uses it much more often than the other more exotic vehicles he owns. But that underlines that appearance and reality are not always coincident: something that should be remembered by those who criticise him without even knowing him.

There’s also been a lot of talk about motivation. You want to know the truth? At the moment, the Finn’s motivation is sky-high: he has quietly intensified his training to be in the best possible conditions and catch whatever chance it’s offered to him. “I like to face different challenges, that’s clear- Kimi adds-. I have a lot of plans, but I don’t like to talk about them, because I’m not sure any of them will materialize”. It is the story of our lives: at the end of the day, the F1 World Champions are not different to the rest of us.

Talking about F1 champions, when Sebastian Vettel won his 18th race at this year’s Italian GP, matching Kimi’s total number, he was asked what it meant for him. He answered it was a nice achievement, but that he suspected that Kimi still had the capability of getting some more victories in F1…

“I don’t know- Kimi says, laughing-. It depends of whatever happens in the future. To begin with, as we said before, in F1 you need a good package. In a s*** (Note: in Spanish it really says s***) car you’re never going to win, even if you drive better than you ever did in your whole life. That is the reality and it is impossible to escape from it”.

Where could Kimi go?

F1 Racing has got to know that Kimi Räikkönen has been weighing up his options to go back to F1; next season at first, but the most probable is for 2013. Regardless of what our sources describe as “Kimi’s huge motivation to return to F1”, it seems that his options for 2012 are much more limited, being Renault and Williams the only two realistic destinations. It is also believed that Kimi doesn’t fancy to go to Toro Rosso. Whatever he decides, Kimi is facing the most complex crossroads in his career.

Red Bull
Kimi sounded out the winning team of the last two seasons about a seat for 2012 but, after Mark Webber’s contract extension, he was told there was not a free seat until 2013.

Given his record here, his aversion for PR and his usual anti-corporative behaviour, the Woking squad won’t consider taking back their relationship with Kimi until cows can fly.

Taking into consideration that Ferrari divorced from Kimi one year before the contract ended- and that they kept on paying him-, it looks very improbable that they have any interest in having him back.

Kimi’s managers have talked with Mercedes but, with Michael Schumacher willing to honour his 3rd contract year, he would have to wait until 2013.

Regarding the teams with resources and able to be on the top, Enstone could be a good option if Kubica’s return is delayed. Another issue would be how much needed of Petrov’s and Senna’s sponsors Renault is. Plus Renault’s and Kimi’s managers had a excited argument last year…

Williams is short of money and they will probably continue with Pastor Maldonado and his briefcase (of money) next year. Kimi has already visited the team and we understand they have even talked about the PR days he would have to do. Kimi is so willing that it seems he has accepted to do more days than ever.

Force India
Vijay Mallya usually talks about an experienced driver, and they could have a free seat in 2012. Question is if Kimi would be able to be fit enough before the winter tests.

The team were Kimi started in F1 keeps playing his role as team where young talents start and, next season, they will continue with their present driver-line: Kobayashi and Pérez.

Toro Rosso
Since Red Bull partially sponsored Kimi’s rallying adventures, it is possible they could get together in F1. But Kimi is not that interested, and moreover, STR is the vehicle for Helmut Marko’s young drivers program.

Lotus, HRT and Virgin
The new teams seem to be the least probable ones where Kimi could search for a seat… even if it’s because his pride. Moreover, they would not be able to pay his cache. On the other hand, he could surprise us all…

Source: F1 Racing -

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