“Leave me alone; I know what I’m doing”, was Kimi Räikkönen’s now-famous remark to his race engineer. You cannot argue with him, Kimi certainly knows how to race. During a time of Vettel domination, other great performances pale into insignificance through many corners of the media – so Kimi, here is your recognition.
Kimi Räikkönen is perhaps not an obvious choice. He neither craves the limelight nor is he a sponsorship darling like many of his peers and rivals on the grid, but that in itself helps describe how Räikkönen is special and, indeed, the best driver of my generation.
His quiet, methodical approach reminds me of my beloved Jim Clark; his victories are humble and gracious but never fall short in entertainment. Therefore, it could be argued, that the Finn adopts are more classic approach to his racing, a style reminiscent of decades bygone, an era before the ‘showbiz’ side of racing took hold. For Kimi, the focus remains on racing – only a win matters.
When the time for Raikkonen to grace the podium does come, phrases like “oh, not him again” do not appear in general conversation, eyes do not roll and very few sigh. His desire to remain individual has made his more popular than he could ever imagine, bringing with it an amusing sense of irony. He’s a showman and an example of great racing, without even meaning to be.
Räikkönen’s statistics are impressive yet often marred by the performances of his rivals. He holds the record for most consecutive point finishes with 27 between the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix and the 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix. He has 20 wins, 77 podiums and 969 career points to his name since being discovered by Mr Peter Sauber himself back in 2001. These are note-worthy statistics, they really are, but not vital in handing Kimi this honour.
Often trying to keep a professional air to my work, it is rare for you will hear my opinions about the current crop of Formula 1 drivers but I will share one idea I stand by. The driver with the most titles, trophies and wins does not automatically become the ‘best’ in my book; they are successful and their talent undeniable, yes, but there is an important distinction to be made. Even as a blogger and journalist, statistics are not how I judge a driver. I look at them as individuals, not numbers, and with Räikkönen’s career, this seems applicable.
His ‘phoenix from the ashes’ story was a marvel, a real classic by Formula 1 standards. He was unceremoniously dumped by the powers that be at Ferrari, thrust into the crazy circus that is the World Rally Championship and later made a successful return atop the Formula 1 podium. I did not hear grumblings about his victory in Abu Dhabi in 2012, more cheers of excitement and gratification to Lotus for fighting to bring him back.
As far as Motorsport fans go, I was quite a late starter to the sport; I can trace my Formula 1 roots as early as 2007. Whilst I had shown some interest in the sport, it was always in the background and did not control my every thought or dominate my working life. I attribute my moment of F1 discovery to the day Räikkönen won his championship, not because his place in the history books was cemented forever, but because the abundant thrill of it all gripped me.
It was a race full of incident and was scrappy by anybody’s standards. It was the first time three drivers had contested a championship since 1986 and Räikkönen sat third in the standings behind team-mate, Fernando Alonso and a fresh-faced Lewis Hamilton who was in his rookie season. Positions were constantly switching between drivers and the championship was prematurely awarded to all in contention. As Hamilton slipped down the order, Alonso too began to fade allowing the enigmatic Finn to take the chequered flag and the world championship.
Cue an excited Katie, pacing the room and roaring with excitement.
For this reason, I hold Kimi Räikkönen responsible for making me a fan of Formula 1 and, thus, responsible for the subsequent career that has followed. Bestowing the title of ‘the best driver of my generation’ is a very personal matter to each fan but, for me, Räikkönen’s eccentricity, his race craft and his championship win in Brazil 2007, will always place him high on my list of all-time greats.
I was selected as an Official Blogger for the Autosport International Show 2014, Europe’s largest Motorsports show, which takes place in January at Birmingham’s NEC.