Alfa Romeo driver made his debut in 2001 and also drove for Sauber, McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus during illustrious career
By Yuri Coghe
2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen has decided to call it quits on his illustrious Formula 1 career once the season ends.
“This is it. This will be my last season in Formula 1,” Raikkonen said in an Instagram post. “This is a decision I did during last winter. It was not an easy decision but after this season it is time for new things.”
The Finnish driver has 21 victories, 103 podiums, 18 pole positions and 46 fastest laps over an all-time high 341 race starts. At 43 years old, he’s the oldest driver in the current grid.
The Iceman, as he is called, also became a fan-favourite due to his nonchalant, “get me out of here as soon as possible” yet non-aggressive approach to press conferences, interviews and public appearances. There is also no shortage of funny team radio bits and moments throughout Raikkonen’s career.
Raikkonen’s now vacant Alfa Romeo seat throws more fire into the speculation that fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas, now at Mercedes, is soon to sign with the team.
Raikkonen made his debut for Sauber 20 years ago, achieving great results as a 22-year-old rookie coming straight from Formula Renault. His four points-finishes in an era only the top-6 would score were enough for McLaren to give him a seat in the following year. He made it to the podium in his first race for the British team.
The Iceman won his first race the next season at the 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix. He enjoyed seven other victories during his five seasons with McLaren, finishing as the runner-up in the championship to Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher in 2003 and Renault’s Fernando Alonso in 2005.
He moved to Ferrari in 2007 to replace a retired Schumacher and added six more race wins to his name en route to claiming the world championship by a single point from both McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton – then a rookie – and Fernando Alonso, who had won in the two previous years.
Raikkonen drove for Ferrari until the 2009 season before taking two sabbatical years from F1. He got back in 2012 with Lotus, winning two races during his two years with the team. He then returned to Ferrari to complete five more seasons with the Italian outfit.
His latest win in Formula 1 came at the 2018 United States Grand Prix, also likely to be his last podium finish.
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The Finn has been with Alfa Romeo – a rebranded version of the Sauber team he started his career at – since the 2019 season. He currently sits 17th in the drivers’ standings with two points.
“Even though the season is still on, I want to thank my family, all my teams, everyone involved in my racing career and especially all of you great fans that have been rooting for me all this time,” he added.
“Formula 1 might come to an end for me but there is a lot more in life that I want to experience and enjoy. See you around after all of this! Sincerely Kimi.”
Raikkonen also spoke about his retirement during the press conferences ahead of this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix.
“I had a good run, I’m happy with what I achieved,” Raikkonen said. “Obviously you want to win and it’s not easy to win. I wanted to win a championship, I got close quite a few times and managed to win it with Ferrari, so happy that it happened, especially with them.
“But the rest, strength or not strength, I don’t care. I had fun and I did it my way, and I wouldn’t change a single thing even if I could, because otherwise then maybe we wouldn’t be sitting here today if you changed one thing along the way. No complaints – I cannot really complain.”
Alfa Romeo, F1 and drivers pay tribute
Raikkonen’s announcement triggered tributes from many, including his own team, fellow drivers and F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali.
“Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN would like to express all its gratitude to Kimi for the incredible seasons spent together in these two stints,” Raikkonen’s team said in a statement. “For the work ethic, the passion for racing, the determination to succeed he displayed from his first test in Fiorano to last week’s session debriefs; and for being a unique character, always true to himself – something that endeared him to everyone who worked with and for him.”
“There isn’t any driver out there like Kimi Räikkönen,” said Alfa Romeo team principal Frédéric Vasseur. “His presence, his charisma and his unique attitude, matched with the innate skill that made this team give him a chance back in 2001, have made him a legend of our sport in a way which numbers and statistics struggle to convey.
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“Kimi is an incredible part of our sport, a personal friend and a true champion,” said Domenicali, a former Ferrari team principal. “I had the privilege of working with him at Ferrari and know the fantastic person he is. We will all miss him and his unique style and wish him and his family the best for the future.”
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton was one of many drivers to answer questions about Raikkonen’s retirement in press appearances.
“I remember before I got to Formula 1, in computer games I’d always be in Kimi’s car,” Hamilton said. “So I had this crazy experience of racing against him, losing a championship to him and then (having) lots of great battles (with him). He will be missed.”
Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo teammate Antonio Giovinazzi also congratulated the Finn on his championship-winning career.