Iceman Kimi Räikkönen

Diary of Kimi´s first year in F1


Kimi Räikkönen proved to the whole F1-world that he is worth the superlicense. He didn’t do one single mistake and was the fastest of all rookies. “He did a fantastic job”, said Peter Sauber. Steve Robertson: “I can already see from the way Kimi moves that he is satisfied even though he is the last person to start bragging about it. Kimi proved that he is worth his seat and got through the first international press conference with honor. It was obvious that the public appearance troubled him more than going out on the track.”


“I announced many times during the winter my opinion that if somebody who sits into these cars and proves immediately to be fast and doesn’t make mistakes, to a guy like this you have to give the right to drive in F1”, Schumacher reminded. “I would say that Kimi proved this weekend all my estimations to be right. I can only congratulate him and tell him to keep going on the same way.”


Technical manager Willy Rampf praised Kimi’s ability to keep the laptimes at a hard level. “We talked in the radio during the end of the race and Kimi told us that he won’t push hard anymore. Yet we saw by looking at his laptimes that at that point he was one second faster than Nick Heidfeld.”


Max Mosley owes Kimi an apology. He did his everything to prevent this biggest promise’s rocketlike rise into F1. “I’m sure I proved everyone that I belong here”, Kimi said. Peter Sauber hinted that perhaps Mosley should consider calling Kimi and apologise for the negative image he created of Kimi. “My own impression of Kimi wasn’t changed at all after this race because I already saw what he is capable of when he tested our car for the first time in Mugello. Ever since that moment I have known that there is something absolutely exceptional in this boy and he proved it to all F1-fans around the world”, Sauber said proudly. “It was stunning, almost unbelievable when Kimi came out of the car after the race as fresh and vigurous as Michael Schumacher and he would have been ready to drive another race right after that. Peter Sauber lost Red Bull’s support in millions to Arrows because they didn’t want to take Red Bull’s favorite driver Enrique Bernold as their driver. “Bernoldi crashed now too, Räikkönen didn’t”, Sauber pointed out.

Manager Steve Robertson moved into tears of Räikkönen’s brilliant debut. “Our fairy tale story culminated to the 6th position. Now everybody believes what I have known for some years already: Kimi is a phenomenal talent.” Robertson grinned and said that he would in the future wait for a call from either Ron Dennis or Jean Todt. “We have a long contract with Sauber but it’s very possible that the team won’t be able to keep Kimi for long”, Robertson said. “Kimi is an extremely strong person. I’m sure that it was much more difficult for me to sleep the night before than it was for him. Kimi can’t stress about anything.” “Kimi did not do one single mistake”, his race engineer Jacky Eeckelaart said. “My first GP was pretty much what I expected it to be. At least it wasn’t tougher than I thought”, Kimi said.


Kimi’s performance assured all experts. Even the experienced reporters nodded in an accepting way and said they had met a future WDC although they went hard on him for his laid-back clothing. Räikkönen charmed them especially with his flawlessness and superb physical condition. They haven’t seen since Michael Schumacher another driver who isn’t drenched in sweat after a hot race and looks like he can do the same race again. Räikkönen was the most flawless driver of the Australian Grand Prix. He paid a part of his one million dollar salary at -once because every point is worth 100 000 dollars to the team. Next week Räikkönen will face his next big challenge – public appearances in Petronas events. He isn’t skilled for those. But the best is that you can always develop public performance and verbal talent unlike the skill to drive which has to be something you are born with.


Sauber’s physical trainer Josep Leberer has had a 5-day training camp for the young drivers in Thailand. According to Leberer both Nick Heidfeld and Kimi Räikkönen came out of the camp half dead but completely adjusted to Malaysia’s burning heat. “We trained in a 40 degree temperature. At times the boys nearly dropped dead of the strain even though we made sure they got enough to drink. The people living in the hotel must have thought we were some idiotic sporting-idiots”, Leberer told.


Peter Sauber brags and says he has already won two bets when the young drivers immediately scored points and the team proved they built a better car than Prost who was left behind them with the same engine. ”The real revolution is our young drivers. The reality is that F1 needs to be shaken up. Heidfeld is more experienced, in that sense Räikkönen starts from zero, but Räikkönen is intelligent and he has his unique charisma. Kimi puts the foot on the pedal and drives fast”, Sauber says.


Button’s manager David Robertson has had to answer to questions why the British driver wasn’t placed to Sauber where his son’s, Steve Robertson’s, protegé Kimi Räikkönen is. Button earns three times more at Benetton than Räikkönen at Sauber. But the Finn is doing much better.


“I learn more all the time. I find something new every lap. I’m satisfied with the setup of the car, now we found a slightly different setup for me than to my team mate. It’s going to a better direction all the time”, Kimi said. Steve Robertson was shining from happiness when his protegé left the BAR-stars behind him and could challenge Jordan. Kimi is now looking for the first time for his own setups that suit his driving style. So far his car has been setup based on Heidfeld’s experience. “Kimi has a lot to try out in the next test. He is now starting to build up his car so that it suits his own driving style. Even though they say that Nick and Kimi are similar, there are changes. Where Nick takes the corners later, Kimi takes them sooner. Because of this Kimi is eagerly waiting for the next test and maybe the car is even better in the next race in Imola”, Robertson said.


Kimi could have been 3rd in Brazil GP. Afterwards we found out that due to a confusion he lost 15 seconds during one lap and while trying to catch up, he drove off the track. He was finally out when his tyre broke. Kimi didn’t completely understand when they warned drivers of the race possibly being stopped during rain in the Drivers meeting. When the hard rain began, Kimi was thinking what happens when he saw so many drive to the pits. At that point all he heard was noise from the radio. For a while Kimi thought that the race was stopped but then on the other hand he subconsciously obeyed the order to ‘stop racing’ and drove very slowly because of that. Only after he heard the order from the radio to come in and change tyres he realised that the race had been going on all the time and he started to go flat out. “Kimi was really disappointed after stopping the race but after seeing the laptimes and seeing that he was with slicks in the rain even three seconds faster than Heidfeld, the smile returned on his face. He felt better and took the attitude that that’s racing”, Robertson said.


“I have learned all tracks after three laps”, Kimi says. In Magny-Cours testing last week Räikkönen learned the track in rainy weather after 3 laps after which he started to be a couple of tenths from BMW-William’s laptimes. In Imola Kimi walked around the track on Thursday and looked carefully how to use the borders to his advantage. On Friday Kimi was 7th and in the afternoon even 4th for a while. 6th position made all the people at Sauber smile big time. “Jenson Button had some difficulties last year in learning the Imola track, just like so many other rookies have. That’s why I was a little concerned how Kimi will do. But Kimi is Kimi. He learned it really fast and was fast in both dry and wet weather”, Robertson said.


“Everyday Nick Heidfeld and Kimi Räikkönen blow more fresh air into the staff. Their example rubs off at everyone. I have never experienced an atmosphere like this in my team before”, Peter Sauber said. “I know that many teams are keeping their eyes closely on Kimi”, Robertson said. “It’s fantastic to get praise from Häkkinen. Kimi is happy for the help Mika has offered but maybe he learns too fast and doesn’t need Mika’s advice”, the manager smiles. “I help myself best by learning everything myself”, Räikkönen says.


Kimi Räikkönen beat on his 4th attempt his team mate Nick Heidfeld. The German reacted very strongly to the competition within the team and the communication between the drivers stopped. Some experts were comparing Räikkönen’s performance in Imola to Senna’s first visit in San Marino.


Steve Robertson is already used to telling what his supersilent superprotegé Kimi thinks and feels. “When Kimi gets to develop the car the way he wants, there is a huge difference to what was before. He really can build the car better. Now he has got the permission to go with his own engineers in his own direction and is now satisfied with the car. Kimi is Kimi. He is very competitive and is always looking for something better. It’s only a good sign. He has been faster than Heidfeld and is because of this a controlling figure in the team this weekend. I believe that it was a big step forward for Kim to beat his team mate and believe in the development of his car.”


“FIA doesn’t have to discuss Räikkönen’s superlicense anymore. If someone comes to us complaining about it, we will advice that person to shut his mouth and drive the same way Räikkönen drivers”, Gutjahr said. Kimi’s superlicense raised quite a storm when Max Mosley was in the head of the people opposing to letting the Finn into F1.

 One critisising Räikkönen’s supelicense has been Jacques Villeneuve. Kimi was faster than him in Interlagos and Imola qualification. “Kimi has all the good qualities other driver have but on top of that he has something exceptional. Kimi showed during the first testing day in Mugello – and many times after that – that he can control an oversteering car in the corners better than any other driver at Sauber has. The telemetry shows without doubt that when going into a superfast corner and the car oversteers, other drivers always lift the foot of the pedal but Kimi again strives to take it through the corner with the same speed he goes into it. By studying telemetry Kimi learnes faster more all the time”, Sauber praises.


“Räikkönen is a sensation. There is no other word to describe him. Not just because he is fast – Kimi is really fast. Heidfeld won’t probably see Kimi anymore after a couple of GP’s. So many know Heidfeld and have worked with him and know what he is capable of. When Räikkönen is in front of him it’s a clear accomplishment and cannot be underestimated by anyone”, Keke Rosberg praises.


Räikkönen’s performances patched up the relationship between Sauber and the main sponsor. Kimi Räikkönen beat for the 2nd time his team mate Nick Heidfeld in quali. “It doesn’t matter at all if my team mate has problems or not, I’ll still be faster”, Kimi smiled. For Sauber Räikkönen’s speed and performances mean also financial success. On Saturday after quali the Austrian Red Bull’s manager Dietrich Mateschitz marched to Peter Sauber, congratulated and said that he did the right choice when hiring Räikkönen. According to information we have, Mateschitz promised to help Sauber until the end of the current contract and invest more money into car development. In practice Sauber can hire 30-40 people more to Hinwil factories. When Sauber decided to hire Räikkönen instead of Enrique Bernoldi who Red Bull supported, Mateschitz got angry and decided to cut all relations to Sauber after the contract expired. When Bernoldi went to Arrows, Red Bull went with him as a sponsor for the Arrows team.


At Sauber you can’t work just for one driver, you have to treat them equally, says JJ Lehto. “Especially to Kimi an equal treatment is important because he has no experience and it would be so easy to stab him in the back”, JJ thinks.


Kimi Räikkönen started on Tuesday his testing period with all the fancy new technology the car got (start system and traction control). “There is a lot of work when the driver has to help the engineers more than before to find the best setups for the car from several options. There’s now so much new technology that offers many new solutions”, Kimi said.


Haug praises Räikkönen and says he is the joy of F1-world. Norbert Haug praises and says that Räikkönen is like fireworks to F1. “It’s findings like Kimi who cheer up this sport tremendeously. The way both Heidfeld and Räikkönen do their job is an honor to Sauber and F1. It warms my heart to see two this young drive in a positive way like this against each other. They represent the new generation in F1”, Haug said.


Manager Steve Robertson says that Kimi has grown and developed a lot when working with mechanics and engineers. “Kimi feels now that he belongs to F1 and doesn’t have to be ashamed anymore. You can see and hear it when he sits in the car and talks with the engineers. Kimi can specify what he wants and should be done. It’s a great change compared to his first 2 races”, Robertson says.

 Race engineer Jacky Eeckelaert:

“I have never worked with a more quiet driver than Kimi but our co-operation has worked effectively ever since the start. I ask and he answers with an answer that doesn’t leave room for any questions. The feedback is exactly what we need. Kimi is a big talent, learns amazingly fast and gets better race by race.


Schumacher certain of Räikkönen becoming a star: “Räikkönen is very, very talented. He might become a very big star because otherwise he wouldn’t be driving this close to the top in such a short time. I’m waiting with interest to see if Kimi can develop his supertalent even more than Jenson Button.”


Every point is extremely valuable for Kimi Räikkönen and also every employee in Sauber. Räikkönen was like melted honey after his brilliant drive. Peter Sauber’s thick cigar was burning and champagne flooded. Räikkönen showed that he has the eye for the game by letting Michael Schumacher pass him the moment the German attacked. Schumi thanked Kimi by waving his hand as soon as he goes by Kimi. “It wouldn’t have made any sense to keep Schumacher behind me. It would only had cost him time. Now nobody said anything against me and it’s more sensible to let him go and then try to keep up with him and also escape from the rest”, Kimi said.

 Steve Robertson:

“When we remember from where we started from, when Kimi’s superlicense was doubted and then he scores in his very first race and now we got a great racing perfomance again. Kimi is a phenomenal driver. You can’t escape facts. Kimi will make whole Finland very proud. When you come right after McLaren and Ferrari you can’t wish for a better position.”

Robertson reminded that Kimi could have got the same position in Imola if his steering wheel wouldn’t have come off in the middle of the race.


“I’m very exited about the upcoming Monaco GP. That circuit is like it’s made for my small boys”, Peter Sauber smiled.


Red Bull – boss Dietrich Mateschitz cut his relationship with Peter Sauber when he chose Räikkönen instead of his protegé Enrique Bernoldi. He admits Kimi’s merits but doesn’t stop praising his crash-sensitive Brazilian. “Räikkönen has done a brilliant job and showed he has a big talent. The youngster has proved that he is a real professional. Yet it’s wrong to claim that Bernoldi wouldn’t be as tough as he is. I’m sure that he would have achieved the same results in Sauber as Kimi”, Mateschitz insists.


Kimi Räikkönen’s heroic deed in midsummer was him tricking the old fox Jean Alesi when fighting for the 10th position. Kimi tricked Alesi with a trick he was known of in karting-days. He fooled Alesi, kept up a hard speed until giving room for the French to try overtaking making it look like a mistake. Alesi speeded by him with too much speed but ended up driving off the track when Kimi calmly took another driving line. Alesi was angry because he drove right into an ‘old mine’ since it meant his first retirement this season. Sauber-people’s verdict of the fight Räikkönen-Alesi was that the Finn proved to be two levels better driver than Alesi.


57-year old Peter Sauber says that he has announced directly that it’s useless to try and ask for a price to release Kimi from his contract. “If I would sell Kimi I might aswell go on pension straight away”, he said. He is especially happy over Räikkönen’s breakthrough. “I gambled and wasn’t sure myself if Kimi would get the superlicense. I couldn’t even have dreamed what I have won this far by choosing Kimi.”


Ferrari follows Räikkönen’s development really carefully. The Italian engineers can read from their own telemetry how amazingly this young Finn can take the maximum out of his Sauber car and Ferrari engine. “Kimi is worth gold to us!” Peter Sauber says. “I trusted my instinct and was right. Kimi is a natural talent and he has genuinelly speed in his blood. It’s no joke to suddenly get 600 horsepowers to control like happened with Kimi. He managed to get the car into his hands from the beginning. And it’s not just about his speed. He has been able to direct us in the car development work”, Sauber says.


Toyota’s technical manager, F1-expert Gustav Brunner classifies Kimi as the best young promise at the moment. “The three best rising starts in order are Räikkönen, Fernando Alonso and Nick Heidfeld”, Brunner estimates. According to him the difference between Räikkönen and Heidfeld is the following: “Heidfeld may win GP’s but Räikkönen will also win the championship.”


Formula 1-rookie Kimi Räikkönen speeded on Monza track the fastest laptime of all times at the end of this week’s testing session, 1.23,532. His speed on straights was 357 km/h. He was over two tenth faster than Michael Schumacher’s last year’s laptime for pole.


Peter Sauber says he saves at least 100 million FIM thanks to his two drivers. “Usually it takes 10-20 million USD or Michael Schumacher to develop the car half a second faster. My team gets this benefit for free thanks to Räikkönen and Heidfeld”, Sauber said. One cannot envy Heidfeld’s position. He said in public before the season that he will look like an idiot if he would happen to lose to Räikkönen. Now Räikkönen has passed Heidfeld when it comes to performance ability and respect, which has made Heidfeld’s manager to rage that Kimi is deliberately promoted more than Heidfeld.


When Ferrari bought in 1995 Eddie Irvine from Jordan, the transfer was 5 million USD. Sauber smiles when Irvine’s deal is compared to Ferrari’s interest for Räikkönen. “I wouldn’t even discuss about releasing Kimi of his contract for 5 million USD”, he said.


How was Kimi released of his contract with Sauber that was supposed to expire in the end of 2004? “There was a lot of interest. It wasn’t just the McLaren-management that asked about Kimi”, Steve Robertson says. “In June Ron Dennis contacted me and asked about Kimi’s contract. He wanted to meet us. We went to Woking and were taken by a complete surprise. Dennis asked if Kimi would be interested to drive at McLaren next year already in case Sauber would release him of his contract. Racing contract? We assumed that Dennis would offer us somekind of option to McLaren after the Sauber-contract would expire”, Robertson sighs. “As a manager I take care of Kimi’s contract matters but he makes the decisions himself. Kimi didn’t hesitate. He wanted at that minute to become McLaren’s driver. We weren’t told who Kimi would replace, Mika or David. We got the answer only two days before McLaren published the contract. When Räikkönen had made his decision the focus was on Peter Sauber. He heard what had happened behind his back 10 days before Hockenheim in the end of July. When we met with Sauber and told about McLaren’s offer, his reaction didn’t come as a surprise to us. Peter Sauber has done a lot for Kimi’s F1-career. Without him Kimi wouldn’t have necessarily got the superlicense. Literally Peter Sauber make Kimi a F1-driver”, Robertson praised. “Kimi is without doubt this moment’s sensation in the F1-world and Peter Sauber knew he had a real jewel in his hand that he himself would have wanted to polish even brighter. It was obvious that Sauber would have wanted to keep Kimi in the team for a long time. Sauber understoot that the top teams search after a talent like Kimi. When he realised that Kimi really wanted to go and had his mind elsewhere, he didn’t want to keep Kimi against his will in the team. We really didn’t come up to this solution in a moment. It took it’s own time but now I think that everybody is happy. I have to admit that behind the scenes happened a very emotional decision and the reactions were fierce at times.”


Kimi Räikkönen has felt in his skin that he is playing the second violin at Sauber after he started to negotiate with McLaren in summer. In Indianapolis GP Räikkönen heard that he had been driving a broken car in Monza. His suspension broke in Monza practice and it wasn’t fixed for the race. He learned in US that to this GP he didn’t get his own car, instead he got someone else’s car. Räikkönen didn’t enjoy one moment in Indianapolis on the track. Even though they made changes to the car, it doesn’t improve the car’s behaviour. For the first time in the whole season Räikkönen wasn’t able to find any balance in his car although they worked on changing it all the time. Naturally the atmosphere between the driver and the mechanics have cooled. Räikkönen has given his critics about the car and the mechanics try to stand up to him. “I don’t blame anyone if at some stage there has born some doubts of equal treatment. The important thing would still be that the fault would be found from the car because this isn’t working in any way now”, Räikkönen said.


Over a year ago when Kimi Räikkönen prepared for his first F1-test in Sauber his manager wanted to arrange his Formula Renault -driver a bit of a touch with a slightly more powerful car. Robertson arranged a three day test in Carlin Motorsport-team with a Formula 3-car on Pembrey track in Britain for Räikkönen. Räikkönen’s testing partner was the team’s standard driver Takuma Sato. During the first day Sato was half a second faster than Räikkönen when the track was dry. It rained the second day and Sato didn’t get anywhere near the Finnish junior’s laptimes. It was close that he didn’t start to cry out of dissapointment. Räikkönen stopped the F3-tests after a day and a half when there was no more speed to find and nothing to prove with the car anymore.

 Next year: 6.11.2002

Peter Sauber played down Kimi’s skills in car development in a recent interview. “The truth is that during the last two years Nick Heidfeld was in charge of developing the car while Kimi and Massa both sat into a ready car”, Sauber claims. Even though the team manager doesn’t admit Kimi’s contribution to the car development, Sauber’s engineers can’t stop praising his accomplishments. Some Sauber engineers sat with me on a plane back to Europe from Japan and they started to talk about Räikkönen’s exceptional touch for the car and also how skilled he was when he played it all home. “We tested several new parts in tests Kimi drove. When some new part worked, Kimi described it as good and never using another word for it. The car became better and better every time some new part was good according to Kimi. In the end of the season while Kimi was already going to McLaren we asked why he never classified any new parts as brilliant as they proved to be brilliant steps forward. Kimi just answered that if he had revealed exactly how good the new part would be, it would have been put into Heidfeld’s car, not his, the engineers told. And they claimed that Räikkönen worked in the same way at McLaren too for sure.


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