Kimi Raikkonen is one of the most popular racing drivers from Finland and the 2007 Formula 1 World Champion. Raikkonen debuted in Formula One 2001, recording more than 260 starts and twenty victories since then. He was out from Formula 1 for two seasons (2010 and 2011), participating in the World Rally Championship with Citroen.
Persistent since early days
He was born on October 17, 1979, in Espoo, the second largest city in the country, located in southern Finland. When he was 10, he started to race karting. From the very beginning, he was pretty successful. He had won many local and national titles before he entered the international stage at the age of 15.
Even at an early age, his driving style was persistent and firm. During the race in Monaco, the steering wheel of his karting was broken but Kimi continued to race. In 1998, Raikkonen won the Nordic Championship title while the following year he debuted in formula racing and became the winner of UK Formula Renault 2000 Winter Championship, driving for Manor Motorsport.
Call from Sauber
In 2000, Raikkonen won the UK Formula Renault title after being the fastest in 7 out of 10 races. He also drove in two races of Formula Renault Eurocup and won both of them. His results and driving style were noticed by many people and in 2001, ’The Ice Man’ (what is his nickname) was hired by Sauber Formula 1 team.
Despite his results in the lower ranks, Kimi was still inexperienced. He had to accomplish much more in order to receive the FIA super license to drive in Formula 1. Sauber’s decision to give an opportunity to such inexperienced driver was criticized by many but he did not care about that and soon he proved everybody wrong.
F1 debut in 2001
Raikkonen debuted in the most popular racing series in the Australian Grand Prix in 2001 and scored points finishing 8th which was a big surprise. The rest of the season was pretty good for the Finn rookie who managed to pick points in other three races. The best results were the 4th place in the Austrian and Canadian Grand Prix. With 9 points on his account, Kimi finished 10th in his maiden Formula 1 season.
Many teams were interested in Kimi’s services. McLaren was the fastest and the most concrete of them all and signed Raikkonen on a five-year deal. That was a huge step forward for Raikkonen and he had a big task – to replace his compatriot and a two-time champion Mika Hakkinen.
Six years with McLaren
The debut with a new team was excellent. Raikkonen finished 3rd in the 2002 Australian Grand Prix, behind Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, but the rest of the season unfortunately wasn’t as good. The Finn retired from 10 out of 17 races but still had some good results, like the 2nd place at the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours. However, at the end of the season, Raikkonen was 6th with 24 points, which was a solid result for a sophomore.
The season of 2003 was another big step forward. Kimi almost became a champion but at the end, he was only two points behind Michael Schumacher. Despite winning only one race that year at Sepang, which was his maiden F1 triumph, Raikkonen was in a very consistent form and was in contention until the last race in Japan. Kimi finished 2nd in the race while Schumacher just slipped into the points and secured another title.
Kimi Raikkonen in 2005 again was a runner-up
The beginning of 2004 was pretty bad for Raikkonen and McLaren who had a lot of problems, especially with an engine. Kimi picked points in only one race, but the things slightly improved when McLaren MP4-19B was introduced. He won the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, finished 2nd at Silverstone and Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, and 3rd at Shanghai but that still wasn’t enough. He finished 7th in the Drivers’ Championship.
The poor start of 2005 campaign proved to be decisive in Kimi’s try to become Formula 1 champion. Raikkonen won the 5th race of the season at the Catalunya Circuit and then won the Monaco Grand Prix. After scoring the 3rd win of the season in Canada, his form improved. The Finn later scored wins in Hungary, Turkey, Belgium, and Japan and finished the season as a vice-champion, being 21 points short to a champion Fernando Alonso.
Departure from McLaren and move to Ferrari
Raikkonen’s last year with McLaren was the one to forget considering that he was a runner-up twice. He failed to win a race, scoring six podium finishes, with 2nd places in Melbourne and Monza as the highlights of the season.
After the Italian Grand Prix, it was announced that Raikkonen signed a three-year contract with Ferrari, starting from 2007. He became the best-paid Formula 1 driver and the expectations were high as he again had a big task – to replace a retired seven-time champion, Michael Schumacher.
Winning the title in the first season with Scuderia
The beginning with Ferrari was perfect. Raikkonen won the season-opening race in Australia and later finished 3rd in Malaysia and Bahrain. Later he retired in Spain and in three Grand Prix races. His form dropped a bit, but he still managed to pick some points. In the mid-season, Kimi’s form increased and he won the Grand Prix events in France and Great Britain, while in Hungary and Turkey he finished 2nd.
Raikkonen was in good position to win the title. Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton were his rivals but ’The Ice Man’ kept his nerves calm when it was crucial. He won the races in Belgium, China, and Brazil, while in Italy and Japan he finished 3rd. At the end of the season, he was just a point ahead of his rivals and won the 2007 title in one of the most dramatic seasons of the competition. It was the first time since the inaugural season in 1950 that the driver who was 3rd in standings before the final race managed to win the championship.
Departure from Ferrari and Formula 1
Kimi failed to defend his title in 2008. He had too many ups and downs, especially in the last third of the season. However, after winning the races in Malaysia and Spain, and having other seven podium finishes, the Finn found himself at the 3rd place in the Drivers’ Championship, behind Hamilton and his teammate Felipe Massa. As a consolation, Kimi for the second time in a row won DHL Fastest Lap Award after scoring 10 fastest laps.
The season of 2009 was his final one with the Prancing Pony. It looked like he lost a motivation after failing to score points in the opening three races. The 3rd place in Monaco Grand Prix was his best result in the first half of the year but in the second half, the results were slightly better. Raikkonen won the Belgian Grand Prix and had other three podiums but that was enough only for the 6th place in the final standings.
A couple of races before the end of the season, Ferrari announced that Kimi would leave the team by the end of the year. Many teams, including McLaren, Mercedes, Renault, and Toyota were interested in him, but the Finn again showed how unpredictable he can be.
Driving in the World Rally Championship
Earlier in 2009, Raikkonen made his debut in rally racing. His first event was Arctic Rally in which he took the 13th place, while in the summer he debuted in the World Rally Championship, driving in Rally Finland. He was 15th overall before the crash during the second day. In November of 2009, his manager Steve Robertson confirmed that Raikkonen would not drive in Formula One in the 2010 season. That announcement ended many speculations.
Finland has always had brilliant rally drivers and Raikkonen tried to emulate the success of his predecessors. He signed with Citroen Junior Team and had a relatively good season. Kimi finished 10th overall with the 5th place in Turkey as the highlight of the season. The following year could have been even better as he picked points on a regular basis, driving for his own team Ice 1 Racing. However, the retirements in the last three rounds pulled him back to the 10th place in the Drivers’ championship.
Short spell in the NASCAR Series
In 2011, Raikkonen got an opportunity to test himself in NASCAR. He debuted in the Camping World Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and finished 15th. Later that year, he finished 27th in the Nationwide Series race which was his last race in the most popular American racing series.
Kimi planned to drive for Robby Gordon Motorsport in the Sprint Cup race at Sonoma Raceway, but after the Finn crashed his car during the test, the deal was off and that was the end of Raikkonen’s excursion in the world of NASCAR.
Return to Formula 1 with Lotus
Rumors about Kimi’s return to Formula 1 became strong. Lotus team signed a two-year contract with the Ice Man. Raikkonen was again in his natural environment, ready to prove that he has not rusted.
Raikkonen had a very good season with Lotus. He finished 3rd in the Drivers’ Championship, behind Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso. For many, that achievement was a surprise but the Finn confirmed he is still one of the best drivers in Formula 1. He won Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that year and had other six podiums.
The second year with Lotus was also pretty good. Kimi had one win at the Australian Grand Prix, later had six 2nd places (China, Bahrain, Spain, Germany, Hungary, and Korea) as well one 3rd place in Singapore. Those results were excellent considering that Lotus struggled financially and Kimi had some disputes about his salary. He missed the last two races because he had a back surgery and he dropped to the 5th place in the final classification.
Rejoining Scuderia Ferrari in 2014
Kimi overcame the problems he had with Lotus and signed a deal with Ferrari starting from 2014. Return to the team with which he won the title was a confirmation of his abilities but the first year with Scuderia was everything but fine. Raikkonen finished 12th in the Drivers’ championship which was far below the expectations. He struggled throughout the whole season, failing to score a single podium finish for the first time since his rookie season.
The arrival of a four-time champion Sebastian Vettel to the team brought the fresh energy and Ferrari’s results became slightly better. In the year of Mercedes’ total supremacy, Kimi had only three podium finishes and scored points in each race he has finished. Raikkonen took the 4th position in the championship which was a huge step forward but many doubted his abilities.
Many people said that Kimi looked uninterested and his future in Ferrari didn't seem so promising. However, he stayed calm as always and in 2016 proved that people were wrong. He signed a contract extension with Ferrari after being faster than Vettel in many races, pulling out the maximum from SF16-H. In 2016, he finished sixth in the championship with four podiums on his account. In 2017, Raikkonen continued to collect podiums but he was out of contention for a victory.
Owner of the racing team
In 2004, Kimi Raikkonen, together with his manager Steve Robinson, became the owner of the British Formula 3 team named Raikkonen Robertson Racing but sold his stake in 2010. The following year, he founded a new team called Ice 1 Racing that competes in Motocross World Championship.
Even though he isn't a typical celebrity and a social person, Raikkonen is one of the most popular drivers, mainly because of his racing skills but often just because of his non-specific behavior.