Kimi Raikkonen; never a man to show his emotions or blow his own trumpet. Yet ‘The Iceman’ has plenty to boast about if pushed. His 11-year Formula One career has seen the Finn drive for four different teams, win races for three of them, and earn himself a World Championship crown for the most famous marque of all. However, he’s not likely to tell you of these things himself. F1’s ‘bad-boy rebel’ who so staunchly refuses to conform to the media, the party-obsessed, James Hunt-wannabe who is the bane of a Team Principal’s life is, in fact, one of the greatest drivers of his generation.
Here they are, the five stand-out races that made Kimi Raikkonen one of the most feared competitors in Formula One…
5. Silverstone – British Grand Prix – 2007
Saturday’s qualifying session had seen new kid on the block and local overnight hero Lewis Hamilton plant his McLaren on pole position – it looked set to be a British day of celebration.
A plan that was put on hold when the first round of pitstops occurred on Sunday afternoon. Hamilton went in on lap 16 for his first stop of the race, only to fumble his getaway from the box and lose himself vital tenths of a second. Raikkonen swept through to nab the place, but both men were now running behind the second McLaren of Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard’s strategy dictated a light fuel run that would push him far enough of the Ferrari to guarantee he would stop for more fuel with enough time to exit still in the lead. When traffic, and Raikkonen’s blinding pace, put paid to that, it was a lost cause as far as the British team was concerned. Alonso forlornly and inevitably took to the pitlane as the Scarlet Scuderia swept past to take a lead it was never to relinquish. Despite the best efforts of the home favourite, his fans, his team-mate and the rest of the grid, Kimi Raikkonen crushed the opposition for his 3rd win of what was to be a very important season.
4. Melbourne – Australian Grand Prix – 2013
Does this one need any explanation?
In case you are one of the purists, someone with an intense dislike for anything that’s black, round and has the legend ‘Pirelli’ stamped across it, allow me to explain; Australia 2013 was a perfect example of the diversity of driving skills needed to cope with the super-sensitive offering from the Italian tyre manufacturer this season. While the race attracted criticism for the dependence on conservation rather than aggression, it will be one of the defining career highlights for Kimi. While rivals Vettel and Alonso outqualified him quite comfortably, the Finn enjoyed the last laugh in the Grand Prix itself as his Lotus nurtured its rubber toward the chequered flag with one crucial pitstop less than his rivals. There was no wheel-to-wheel action, no battles in the pitlane and no scandalous contact on track, just a calm, collected and untroubled ascent through the field. You could cite any number of Kimi wins that involved more action than this, and that is the very reason it is included; he did this one differently, by stealth, and it showed that Raikkonen has more than one string to his formidable bow.
3. Magny Cours – French Grand Prix – 2002
2002 was a season painted red by the utter dominance of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari. The Scuderia won all but 2 races through the season to wrap up a year of dominance unparalleled in the modern era. Raikkonen was still a rosy-cheeked rookie competing in his 2nd season of Formula One and had just hit the big time, promoted to McLaren number 2 and partnering long-serving Scot David Coulthard. This was a time before young drivers were expected to make a significant impact in their freshman years, and with just 3 full years of car racing experience behind him the Finn shocked the establishment when he took the lead of the French Grand Prix in what was his 11th race for McLaren. His hard work paid off until lap 67, when he ran wide on oil dropped by the Toyota of Allan McNish and was bounced by Schumacher for the victory. He didn’t win, but the signal was clear – Kimi Raikkonen had arrived.
2. Suzuka – Japanese Grand Prix – 2005
A wet qualifying session left Raikkonen stranded down in 17th place on the grid and his championship chances had already been extinguished after Fernando Alonso and Renault took the title in Interlagos. It was no deterrent for the indomitable Finn who immediately made his bid for glory, despatching Red Bull driver Christian Klien, former World Champion Michael Schumacher and even new World Champion Alonso during his pitstop. His relentless speed saw the fastest laps tumble as he refused to give up on victory, and after his final stop he was just 5 seconds behind race leader Giancarlo Fisichella. He was soon clambering all over the back of the Renault in his attack, relentlessly probing for weaknesses in the Italian’s defence. With just 2 laps left, Fisichella compromised his run down the start finish straight by going defensive into the final chicane, and Raikkonen needed no 2nd invitation. He swept around the outside of the Renault at turn one and seized his 9th and final win for McLaren. It was the typical, never-say-die driving we have come to expect of the Finn.
1. Nurburgring – European Grand Prix – 2003
In his 2nd year driving for McLaren, and just his 3rd in the sport, Raikkonen headed to round 9 of the 2003 season a mere 4 points behind Michael Schumacher and with his maiden victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix still fresh in the mind. Driving the McLaren MP4/17D, the Finn took a convincing pole position and immediately took the lead off the line ahead of Ralf Schumacher. With just 16 laps gone he was already 9 seconds ahead of the pack and easily rejoined in front after his first pit stop. That was as good as it good that Sunday for Raikkonen as his Mercedes powerplant erupted on lap 25 and spewed its innards across the circuit. While that may seem a rather odd drive to choose as Raikkonen’s greatest, consider this; he was driving a car that was 18 months old. The MP4/17D was an interim upgrade of the 2002 car while McLaren developed the ill-fated MP4/18, and had long since fallen behind its newer 2003 rivals from Ferrari and Williams. To enjoy a lead that big, in that particular car, over names such as Schumacher, Montoya and Alonso, is proof enough that Raikkonen was destined to be World Champion.