Entrevista com o Iceman

Life and Style Magazine – July/August 2019

The last great driver 
The legendary Finnish “Iceman” and his view on modern motorsport 

Kimi Räikkönen, star of the Carrera sponsored Alfa Romeo Racing team, is the latest representative of a lineage of endangered Formula 1 drivers. 

It hasn’t been a good weekend for Kimi Räikkönen. The Spanish Grand Prix was the first of this Formula 1 season in which the Finnish driver was outside the top ten positions and therefore, the points. It wasn’t the best news for him or his new team, Alfa Romeo Racing, and we had no idea how it might affect our interview. After all, it’s the Iceman we’re talking about. Arctic eyes, monosyllabic answers and an unalterable expression were the adjectives that preceded him. Expectations had never been the best. But to be honest, that only increased the excitement of being face to face with a legend of his size. With five Formula 1 teams under his belt between 2001 and 2019, from Sauber to McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus and back in Ferrari; two seasons in the World Rally Championship; a year in a NASCAR car; countless hockey games, and hundreds of days of skiing and snowboarding, Kimi represents first and foremost a taste for speed and danger. The original version of the racing driver is closer to that of the unwary hero than to that of the professional sportsman. Not for nothing does he belong to a lineage of drivers who learned to drive through icy roads during Finland’s long winters. A clan that Kimi presides since his victory at the U.S. Grand Prix in October 2018. That day, at 39 years old, he became the Finn with the most first places in Formula 1 history, with 21, ahead of his compatriots Mika Häkkinen, Valtteri Bottas and Keke Rosberg. As one of those life coincidences, it occurred on the eleventh anniversary of his world championship title, which he achieved in 2007, during his first stage with Ferrari. Räikkönen has always preferred to race rather than talk. Living rather than theorizing. Extremely talented, like James Hunt, but less dedicated than Ayrton Senna and not as technical or perfectionist as Michael Schumacher, his youth was full of beautiful polemics related to excesses. How can we forget that time when he fell asleep outside a bar in Spain, embracing an inflatable dolphin? For him, “partying and competing was the norm,” he once said. “As long as I do my job and the team has no reason to complain, don’t worry about my private life. And he was right. Perhaps his best years were those in which his indomitable spirit was in control. Or maybe not. When we arrived at the space set up by Alfa Romeo Racing at the Montmeló circuit, we were given the good news. The photo shoots and interviews had been faster than expected, which always puts someone like him in a good mood. Encouraged by the fact that things were going like this, we went over the questions and prepared the lights and the shots. It wasn’t going to be an easy talk, although playing in our favour, Kimi is no longer that young man who is extremely distrustful of the media. He is also the face of the new Carrera lens campaign, so he felt comfortable in front of the camera. He is still one of the best drivers in the championship and deserves the Iceman title, but now with the weight of experience and two kids on his shoulders. 

How’s the day going? 
Good. It’s not the funniest day I’ve ever had, but it’s okay. 

What would you rather be doing? Other than racing? 
Being at home with my kids. 

I can imagine. Well, if it’s ok with you, let’s just talk a little Formula 1 then. 

After 18 years as a driver, I imagine the way you face both the good times and the bad has changed.
I don’t think so. I’d say it’s always been the same for me. You have to accept that in this sport there will be good days and bad days. Although it’s disappointing when something goes wrong, you have to get rid of that feeling quickly to concentrate on what follows. That’s why I don’t worry too much about the bad times, I don’t overthink it when I get home. 

What is your main concern at this time of year? 
Nothing at all. Obviously last weekend was difficult for us, we lost a bit of speed, but now we have the opportunity to test the car and try to learn from what happened. So concerns, no. What you want is to improve and do things a little better, of course, but even about that, the truth is that I feel relatively confident, although improving has been quite complicated in the last two races [Azerbaijan and Spain]. 

What’s your first car-related memory? 
I guess from when I was very young; my mother and father had cars, of course. I learned to drive when I was only nine, at home. My father used to let me drive from time to time when we went through our land, we used to use old cars. It was him who gradually taught me how to control the car, especially during summers. 

When did you know you liked speed?
Maybe in a go-kart, when I started racing with them between the ages of seven and eight. I had done motocross before but I think it was at that age, with the go-karts, that I knew I liked it. 

Is there anything you do every day no matter where you are?
Sleep [laughs]. Although I can’t always do it as much as I’d like. On race weekends I always follow the same schedule. So I always do a little bit of the same, no matter what country I’m in. My days are very similar. 

Do you believe in good luck rituals?
No. In fact, I don’t think good or bad luck exists. I believe in doing things right. Especially in the racing world, where the things that happen don’t have much to do with luck, but with work. 

I read that you like snowboarding… 
Yes, I loved it, although I haven’t practiced it in years. Now my knees would hurt and you know, it’s not the same to do it when I’m young as when I’m almost 40. It’s risky. If I have free time I prefer to do motocross. I even stopped skiing a couple of years ago. 

Do you like the mountains then? Or has it always been about speed? 
No, in Finland we don’t have high mountains, what I’ve always liked about those sports is the speed. 

Do you care about fashion? 
Not at all. My wife is the one who’s interested. I’m one of those who wear the first thing they grab. I care about comfort. One of the things I like about race weekends is that it’s very easy to choose what to wear [smiles]. The uniform is always the same. 

Is it possible to enjoy a Grand Prix and not actually win?
Yes, I mean, if you like this sport. Obviously part of the challenge is to do well and a good weekend is more enjoyable than a bad one, it’s more fun. But it’s not always possible to win and if you’re going to do this you have to know. I enjoy driving above all else. 

What do you like most about that kind of racing?
Finding someone to fight with on the circuit, someone to fight a challenging battle with, someone to force me to do my best. 

Do you think Formula 1 is less exciting now than it was years ago?
Honestly, I don’t think it’s changed that much. It’s always been hard to avoid people complaining, no matter what change is made to the safety rules or regulations. There have always been circuits that allow you to offer more spectacle than others or drive better than others. It has always been like that and it always will be, you cannot run the same way in all. There are places, such as Spa-Francorchamps, that make it easier for drivers to follow and get ahead, but, for example, here in Spain it’s more difficult. In Monaco, on the other hand, you’ll see more action. These are things that have always happened, it depends on the nature of the circuit. When I started it was the same thing. 

Do you really think that is a complaint that has been constant, always with the same force?
Yes, although it is true that with the cars we have now it’s a problem that is going to be difficult to avoid because the braking distance is very short, it’s difficult to follow. If you took off the wings things would change a lot… I don’t know, there was a time, many years ago, when it was different. But back then it was a different sport. 

What about the driver’s lifestyle? Has it changed in the last 20 years?
I don’t know what to tell you. When I started there were more tests and we were busier than now, I think, because after each race we did tests for two or three days. There was a little more work in that direction. But, in general, not much has changed; except for a few things in qualifying, the race weekends are still more or less the same. 

Do you see anything different in the new drivers?
That they start younger. I started at 21 and, if you compare the average age at which you started in my time with now, it’s certainly gone down. But it’s a general dynamic in all elite sports. Whether it’s football or hockey, people start getting professional sooner. In fact, I’d say it’s something that happens in almost every field in life today. 

Did you enjoy your years as a rally driver?
A lot, but they weren’t easy. It’s a very different sport from this one. You face very different things: snow, storms… In a single race you fight against several conditions, even in a single stage you can find multiple adversities. I think that’s why it’s a sport with such a different atmosphere, because you spend many hours in a car. What is hard is not the driving, but the long days you have to overcome. It can take up to 14 hours to get out of the car on the days when you have to do the reconnaissance and take notes. Also, a Grand Prix is a weekend, while a rally can last much longer. That makes it a completely different challenge, competing for a week, instead of a couple of days, changes everything. 

They are very mental tests.
It’s a completely different mental game and that had a very pronounced effect on me, because for me it was something new. But I tell you that I enjoyed it a lot, I like challenges and difficulties and see how I react to them. Another thing that seemed special to me was the fact that I wasn’t running against the other drivers, but against time. It’s another reason why I think the rally world tends to have a friendlier atmosphere. 

What would you think if your son wants to be a driver?
I don’t know if he’s going to be or not, but whatever he decides, whether he’s a driver or a dancer, we’re going to support him one hundred percent. It’s true that he’s interested in cars and motorcycles, but we’ll see if it stays that way. This summer we will try with the karts to see what happens. With children you never know. 

Do you have an idol you’d like to have dinner with? Dead or alive, it doesn’t matter.
I don’t, actually. When I was young and became interested in Formula 1, I paid a lot of attention to the Finnish drivers of the time, but there was never anyone I followed with special attention or who cared more about than the rest. Besides, in general I don’t like to go out to dinner [laughs]. I prefer to stay at home. 

It’s very important for you to be home… 
It’s what I value most, being at home with my family and having a normal life. I’ve been traveling for years and I spend a lot of time away, that’s why the real vacations for me are being at home or close to home, not on another trip. 

What do you like to do at home?
Whatever the kids want to do. 

Pixar movies?
No, no, we try to go out and spend time outdoors. It’s the best thing for them. 

What do you think about the relationship between media and motorsports?
That there’s more gossip than when I started. Or maybe there were back then, but the internet wasn’t what it is now. Suddenly, everything you do or say ends there right away. So people take advantage of that to tell stories and it doesn’t matter if they’re true or not. They try to sell their product and they know that morbid headlines attract more than those that aren’t. Although I have to tell you that sometimes it’s the headline that seems crazy to me, because then you read the note and the story can be much more normal; it’s like they’re two different things. It happens with all the information we receive today. And it’s a shame, because that makes you have to be very careful when you talk, because you know they’re almost always going to try to use your words to make a scandalous headline. Luckily, there are a lot of decent people who are in this from the beginning, telling the stories that matter, the true stories. But I insist, I think it’s something that surrounds us in all facets of life. Wherever you go, people take pictures and have the possibility to make a normal thing seem strange. I don’t know… I don’t care what is written or said. I know what the truth is.

A cada entrevista que eu leio de Kimi atualmente, mais eu fico satisfeita e orgulhosa do cara que ele é fora das pistas.

Eu nunca tive dúvidas de quem eu admirava dentro das pistas, e fora também não, mas desde que ele se tornou pai, Kimi fala mais sobre tudo e poder ver as opiniões dele, na verdade, ver que as opiniões dele batem com o que eu sempre achei que ele pensasse sobre diversos aspectos da vida e da carreira e da família, só me deixa ainda mais orgulhosa deste cara.

Beijinhos, Ludy


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