F 1

Raikkonen, the elder statesman of Formula One

James Jose/Abu Dhabi
Filed on November 28, 2019
Kimi Raikkonen at a press conference on Thursday (Photo by Ryan Lim)

Raikkonen is still cocooned in a speed machine, well strapped on and behind a complicated steering wheel, still doing mind-boggling speeds

Motorsport is a young man's game, they say. It is often said that the earlier you start, you have a better chance of success and making it to the top. The best years of a racer is probably from 22 to 30.

But a couple of drivers in Formula One are pushing the boundaries further. There is four-time world champion Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who is 32, freshly-minted six-time world champion Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who is 34. And then, there is Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen, who is 40 and counting.

At 40, a race driver would probably be enjoying his retirement life, perhaps skiing in the Alps, or relaxing in a ranch, or maybe even trotting around the F1 paddock, doing commentary.

But Raikkonen is still cocooned in a speed machine, well strapped on and behind a complicated steering wheel, still doing mind-boggling speeds.

The 2007 world champion is still mixing it up with the young boys or those are yet to turn boys to men.

He can perhaps be called the elder statesman of Formula One and his reason for continuing in what is known as the pinnacle of motorsport, is his sheer passion and love for racing. Nothing else.

It is not about the high-rolling life that comes with the territory - Raikkonen is the most publicity-shy driver on the paddock and has his own bubble that he lives in. But he is a character.

After a twin stint with Ferrari, Raikkonen joined Alfa Romeo, a name steeped in F1 history and it seems there is still many more years left in the Finn.

As the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix gets in gear at the iconic Yas Marina Circuit this weekend, the 'Iceman' will be standing on the threshold of a big landmark.

Raikkonen will be making the 312th start of his long career and that will push him above Spanish double world champion Fernando Alonso and into second in the all-time list of starts.

That will leave Raikkonen 10 behind Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, who heads the list with 322 starts.

But when asked about the milestone, in typical Raikkonen fashion, he said that it didn't matter to him.

"It gives me nothing but I'm excited to give it another go and see if we can improve from this year, learn the lessons that we have done wrong and try and get a bit closer, closer to the front. But time will tell. It is too early. Once we start running the cars in the first race next year, we will get a good idea," Raikkonen said at the Yas Marina Circuit on Thursday.

Looking back to the season, Raikkonen felt it was a season of two halves. "I think it was two different halves to the season. Obviously, the first part, we were pretty decent. There were some good performances and some bad. But we have learnt some things as a team and these are all learnings for next year. Obviously, we will try to improve for next year," said Raikkonen, who has 21 wins and 103 podium finishes.



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