SPORT / MISCELLANY
Raikkonen rides out
Tributes paid as Finnish legend calls time on F1
Published: Sep 09, 2021 11:53 PM
Kimi Raikkonen Photo: VCG

Kimi Raikkonen Photo: VCG



Formula 1 veteran Kimi Raikkonen has decided to hang up his helmet and retire from elite motor­sport at the end of the current season.

"This is it," the 41-year-old Finn wrote on Instagram. "This will be my last season in Formula 1. 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.

"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.

"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."

Raikkonen has been an F1 stalwart for decades after first bursting on to the scene with Sauber before establishing himself during five seasons with the McLaren team.

The Finn then moved to Ferrari for three seasons, where he drove himself into the record books with the 2007 driver's championship - winning it from Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in the final race of the season at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Since then - via a two-year stint driving rally cars - Raikkonen has driven for Ferrari again, another five years with the Italian giants, and will end his career after three years with Alfa Romeo.

The tributes have poured in for the Finn, led by the organization's president and CEO Stefano Domenicali.

 "Kimi is an incredible part of our sport, a personal friend and a true champion," said Domenciali, who worked with Raikkonen at Ferrari during that 2007 world championship.

"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," the Italian said.

Kimi Raikkonen drives during the first practice session of the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa on August 27. Photo: VCG

Kimi Raikkonen drives during the first practice session of the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa on August 27. Photo: VCG



Alfa Romeo boss Frederic Vasseur added his own tribute.

"His presence, his charisma and his unique attitude, matched with the innate skill that made this team [Sauber] 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."

His fellow drivers have been as kind in their words for the soon to depart driver, with current world champion Lewis Hamilton leading the way.

"Kimi was one of the better drivers to go up against," the British driver said. "He was tough but very, very fair.

"You just knew he was one of the most skillful drivers here. There was a good amount of respect always with him. I know he's got a family, I know he's said he's got things looking forward to enjoying beyond. I just admire his will to continue racing.

"Clearly, racing is in his blood. He will be missed. I remember before I got to F1 being a huge fan of Kimi's. When I played computer games, I'd always be in Kimi's car. So this crazy experience of racing against him, losing a championship to him and then lots of great battles. He will be missed."

Former Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel was as effusive of Raikkonen.

"An incredible talent so seeing that firsthand as a teammate for some years was impressive," the German said. "Just the amount of speed he has right from the get-go and the ability to get used to different conditions, different cars.

"He definitely earned his place [in history] and had a long and great career."

Vettel is right. Raikkonen's 19 seasons in F1 have already seen him start more Grand Prix races than any other driver in the history of the sport, with 341, and he has more than 100 podium finishes, 21 of them as winner.

He will not start a 342nd this weekend at the Dutch Grand Prix at the Zandvoort Circuit after testing positive for COVID-19 after announcing his impending retirement on the eve of the race.

The Finn will only be allowed back once he has tested negative, putting his return at the next Grand Prix at Italy's Monza Circuit next weekend already in serious doubt.

It is already a shame that his ­Chinese fans, where Raikkonen became a firm favorite at the ­Shanghai Grand Prix over the years, will be denied a chance to see him as the pandemic has postponed the event for a second season.

One of Raikkonen's most famous moments in the sport was him talking back to an engineer over the headset at the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as he was leading the race. "Leave me alone, I know what to do!" said the Finn.

Even with his swan song is being cut short, but Raikkonen was keen to stress that he was not looking beyond the end of the season.

"No, no plans," the Finn told the press when asked what was next.

"I don't want to have some schedule put on, because obviously the last 18, 19 years in F1, since I started, and I did rallying in those two years, there was always a schedule, what is coming next on this date or that date.

"I don't want that. That's for sure one of the big reasons I wanted to do something else, that life doesn't go because of the race or whatever it is, the work that is involved in F1.

"So I'm not in a rush. I've not even thought about it at all yet. The schedule can be our family's schedule, and I'm happy with that."


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