Raikkonen Revealed: Getting close to the Iceman

By on Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Iceman – the nickname given to Kimi Räikkönen by Ron Dennis at the beginning of the 2002 season – suits the 2007 Formula 1 World Champion perfectly.

The Finnish star is most likely the coolest guy in Formula 1… ever. There is nothing that really makes him upset, angry or happy for more than for fifteen minutes or so. Kimi is quick to put everything behind him. The cool nature is innate.

Kimi’s mother Paula remembers him only once being very nervous and losing his cool outlook. He was six years old at the time.

Paula took her son for a regular check-up with their doctor and Kimi had to wait in the corner with toys to keep him occupied as mother and doctor talked. There were many toys, but suddenly Kimi became agitated, biting his finger nails and acting very nervously.

“The doctor started to think that Kimi perhaps had a concentration problem,” Paula explains, “but it was only a question of the toys!

“In those days Kimi was interested in jigsaw puzzles and felt that the jigsaw puzzle available in the surgery was too easy. He saw the puzzle for older children – for 10-15 years old – but could not reach it. The doctor’s assistant refused to give it to him and told him it was meant for older children, not for him.

“Finally Kimi got the more difficult jigsaw puzzle, put the pieces in place and smiled. The doctor was laughing; convinced now that this kid did not have any kind of problem with concentration,” Paula says with the pride of a parent in her voice.

Kimi learnt to drive around that age and – as with putting the pieces together in a jigsaw puzzle – so he started to become the master of putting pieces right in his racing, without losing his concentration in any circumstances.

Paula confirms that Kimi’s willpower has always been tremendously strong.

“He is always going his own way. Whatever you do, you cannot change his mind if he has decided something. As a small kid, if I wanted him to help me in some household chores – let’s say like taking a trash can out – if I saw he didn’t want to do it, it had to ask in an opposite way. I’d say to him: “Don’t you take the trash can out; I will do it myself.” Usually that way Kimi did it,” his mother recalls.

So when did his parents find out that their younger son had the talent to become a world-class motorsport star?

“The closest people – like parents – never see those kind of things themselves,” says Paula. “I think we noticed some promising signs for the first time when Kimi was about ten years old and started in the junior classes of go-karts in Finland. It’s was a father of one the competitors – who had a lot of experience as a mechanic for his own son – who started to ask; “who’s that boy in car number 104?” [which was Kimi].

He said that with that attitude and that speed he would go far; and he was right,” Paula smiles.

His mother also knows the strengths of her son.

“An absurd will to win every time and a never give-up attitude; that’s Kimi. From the time he started racing, he kept turning the steering wheel as long as the wheels kept rolling. I think it is that Finnish-style of tenacious fighting spirit we call ‘sisu’ in him.”

How surprised was Paula when Kimi decided to make a comeback to Formula 1?

“To be honest, I was amazed. Kimi never talks about his work with me if I don’t ask first, but I heard some rumours of his negotiations with Williams and I asked him about that. He answered that he would go to Lotus, because it was a better option for him.

“It was a surprise. His friends had been saying to me that Kimi was so tired and finished with Formula 1 and then suddenly he went back. I think it was very good for him to have his break as he seems to really be enjoying racing again,” she emphasizes.

The closest people – relatives and friends – know a totally different Kimi Räikkönen compared to the one race fans see. He is far from lacking emotion, far from being blunt and tough. Quite to the contrary, he likes to help, he likes to be around, he likes to take care of his family.

Kimi’s brother Rami has two sons, Justus and Tiitus. Kimi is a godparent of the elder, Justus, and continually brings presents for both of them.

“The boys are in a way like I was with Kimi; competing with each other in every possible way. Kimi likes to keep them well equipped with all kind of racing stuff for kids. This Christmas he bought them tablets; or should I say Santa Claus brought tablets for them,” Rami reveals.

But how close are the ever-competing Rami and Kimi nowadays?

“Kimi is my brother. I think it’s a very normal brother-to-brother relationship. We talk almost every week, we play ice hockey and do some other sports together. We both have our own work and that takes time; especially Kimi works and travels a lot.”

Toni Vilander has been very close friend of Kimi since they started to race together as 10-year-olds and were also in the army together.

Toni won the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship for Ferrari in the GTE class and is a very experienced GT racer.

“As we race in different places we have not been seeing each other very often, but I think the friendship is forever,” he says.

Toni is a father himself and Kimi is also the godparent of his son Luukas.

Photo credit: Lotus F1 Team

Was it any kind of a surprise to Toni to see his friend having such a consistent season after two years’ absence?

“I was more surprised about Kimi making a comeback than how he performed during the season,” says Toni. “When he stopped, he was so fed up with Formula 1 and kept saying “never again”. I think it’s a good thing to have some distance away from everything and do something totally different, like rallying. That’s how your way of thinking changes and your approach gets stronger and stronger.

“Kimi is Kimi. It doesn’t matter how different the cars, the tyres or the rules are, it takes only a couple of laps and he is straight away within a second of the top guys. That’s what he did at the beginning of the Lotus era, too.”

Kimi’s image as a laid back person was seen even more in his first season as a Lotus F1 Team driver. His physio, Mark Arnall, has been working with Kimi since 2001 and asserts that the laid back image gives a wrong impression of how hard the Finnish star trains.

“When Kimi races he is not laid back. He fights and keeps fighting as long as the car is moving. That’s how he works in training as well. Since we started, he has always been like that. He gives 110% every time, whatever the programme.”

Kimi even ensures that his trainer stays in top condition. “He gave me the latest heart rate monitor from the Finnish company Suunto for Christmas,” says Mark.

One long-time trusted friend has a big input into how Kimi looks on track. Uffe Tägtström – one of the leading helmet designers of the racing world – has been designing Kimi’s helmets since his karting days.

The driver is very much involved in the design process too, so how artistic is Kimi?

“Artistic? I would not say he is very artistic, but he knows, what he wants and he is very fashion-conscious. He is certainly of his generation,” Uffe says.

Kimi has always been a certain kind of a trend creator in design style. “Sometimes it has been that whatever Kimi brings to his helmet design, it doesn’t take that much time to see the same idea in some way on somebody else’s helmet, too.”

Kimi saves all his helmets and remembers the season just by having a look at the helmet design.

“Usually Kimi gives a hint of what should be on his helmet for the season ahead,” says Uffe. “I’ll then make five different versions of the idea with the computer and he picks what he likes the most.

“Last year he wanted to have his race number up there. He had the number previously during the McLaren times, but then it was at the back of the helmet. Now the number will change from 9 to 7, but there won’t be that much of change for 2013, just some new partners,” Uffe explains.

At the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix, Kimi showed his respect to a driver of the 1970s when he incorporated the James Hunt design and name on his helmet.

“The idea was there for many years, but with McLaren and Ferrari, there was no opportunity to use it. Last year it was perfect and the feedback was great too,” Uffe praises.

Let’s wait and see what Monaco brings along this time...

Source: Lotus F1 Team


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