Iceman Kimi Raikkonen warms up to racing in freedom as he reaches tail end of F1 career

SINGAPORE — Kimi Raikkonen was feeling chatty when Yahoo News Singapore interviewed him at Marina Bay Sands on Wednesday (18 September).

By that, it meant answers that were longer than one sentence, no awkward pauses and even a tinge of a smile on the famously deadpan Formula One superstar.

Perhaps the Finn was comfortable at no longer being under the piercing media spotlight as when he was the blond, dashing and supremely talented race driver at Ferrari, Lotus and McLaren during a 17-year F1 career.

Or perhaps, at 39 years old, is the Alfa Romeo Racing driver at ease with being the elder statesman for F1, with young upstarts looking up to the 2007 champion as an uncompromising racer of the highest order?

“Well they try to make me feel old, but they don’t succeed, I don’t feel it,” Raikkonen told Yahoo News Singapore in his typical monotonous mumble, after he made an appearance at the launch event of the Ambrosial brand of yoghurt by Yili, China’s leading dairy products company.

“I've been in the sport for some years, and did win something in the middle, for sure. But it doesn't feel like I've been around for whatever years. Time goes by very fast once we start the season.”

No intention of easing back from racing

The message is clear: the man dubbed The Iceman has no intention of easing back and winding down his career.

A look at his results this F1 season tells as much. Even on a modest, middle-grid team like Alfa Romeo Racing, Raikkonen has managed to accumulate a respectable 31 points from 14 races, which is already far better than his 25-year-old teammate Antonio Giovinazzi, who has just a point so far in his first full F1 season.

It is clear that he has found an ideal team in Alfa Romeo Racing at the tail-end stage of his career – a sentiment reciprocated by his team boss Frederic Vasseur. The Frenchman has already gushed about “working perfectly” with the Finn, praising the driver’s commitment in pushing for the best results for the team.

In return, Raikkonen has said he is much happier being given more freedom by the team to do what he wants.

“Outside of racing, yes I have a bit more freedom, a less busy schedule than the last two years. But apart from that, I do similar work as I did in my previous teams – all the meetings and driving and stuff,” he said.

“But we have an excellent atmosphere in the team, everybody’s pushing as hard as we can. Things could have fallen our way a bit more, but we have adequate speed and we’re improving. I have absolutely zero things to complain.”

Alfa Romeo Racing driver Kimi Raikkonen (right) at the launch event of Ambrosial yoghurt at Marina Bay Sands, together with Leslie Huang, Yili Group's general manager of international business. (PHOTO: Ricky Ee/Ambrosial)
Alfa Romeo Racing driver Kimi Raikkonen at a sponsor's event ahead of the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman/Yahoo News Singapore)

Racing purist with enduring fan appeal

It is evident that the man who holds the fastest lap in F1 history – set at the 2018 Italian Grand Prix – does not mind missing out on the adulation on the podium, so long as he gets the chance to race as fast as he can.

A purist when it comes to racing, Raikkonen is well-known for his disdain of outside distractions, and has been critical of the off-circuit politics and drama in motor sport.

This explains why he is averse to media engagements and even team instructions, which provided a legendary F1 moment in the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where he barked at an over-enthusiastic Lotus race engineer over the radio, “Just leave me alone, I know what to do!”

That heat-of-the-moment reply soon became a catchphrase to aptly describe the unflappable Finn, so much so that Raikkonen even put it on his official website.

Yet that is his enduring appeal – an out-and-out racing talent who cuts through the promotion-heavy aspects of his sport to thrill fans. And he plans to continue racing until he can no longer perform at the highest level.

“Right now I have a contract for next year. I can’t say for sure what's going to happen next year, but right now I feel I drive well,” he said.

“So that's that's what I’m always looking for, you know. If I feel that I cannot do what in my head I’m supposed to do, then it’s time to do something else, or do nothing.”

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