From our Kimi to Iceman
What happens when a normal family’s boy proves to be special and gets into the 22 best? Kimi Räikkönen got a F1-seat and a licence but mother and father, Paula and Matti Räikkönen hope that life would stay as it was. Their wish is fulfilled if they have as much love in the family as they have had up till now.
The feeling is the same as it usually is after a big moment of happiness. The dream becomes true, the joy is enormous and yet there is sorrowness in the air: what was is left behind, a lot changes, maybe everything. It’s been a few days since Kimi Räikkönen, 21, came out with the historical news: he got the superlicense to F1 although he didn´t drive one meter in F3. “We have done our part, Kimi and Steve Robertson will take care of the rest. We only give emotional support now,” Matti Räikkönen, Kimi’s father says. “It is painful to let him go. It will take a few weeks until we get ourselves psyched into thinking that this really is true.” Kimi’s mother Paula Räikkönen continues: “This came with such a bang. Kimi called Matti’s cellphone on August 15th when we were in Tuupovaara where Rami was rallying telling that he will go and test F1 within a month. I thought then that I am going to faint. Fortunately Matti caught me when my feet just went under, really.” “I prepared her and told her to sit down, that I have an incredible thing to tell,” Matti tells. “Fortunately we have this older son Rami, who is one year and 10 months older than Kimi and who drives rally. I have enough to do with Rami,” Matti says and grins somewhat sadly. He is a big, stable, bearlike 46-year old man. Paula, 47, is smaller, blond, fast and clear in her talks, bubblier.
It took time, money and strength
Here we have a fresh Finnish heroic story where Sisu, toughness, trial and companionship is combined. This story has four heroes, Kimi, Matti, Paula and Rami. “Everything happened like in secret. I mean we started this only so we could give the boys a good and a healthy hobby. And then the hobby has grown into bigger and bigger circles”, father Räikkönen explains. Matti Räikkönen is a machine man who is a mechanic with skillful fingers. Paula is a secretary, a woman of action. “All hobbies are good but driving is tricky because the small boys don’t get with their machinery from track to track. If a boy plays ice-hockey you can take turns with other parents, in this hobby it doesn’t work. We travelled with these two sometimes even 17 races in one summer and when the distances are what they are it doesn’t mean from Friday evening to Sunday, it often means from Wednesday to Sunday”, Matti tells. “When the boys started to drive national races – Kimi was eight – we had to get a van and a trailer so that we could get to the races”, Paula continues. “It took all the time, money and strength”, she calmly says. Matti worked two or three jobs, drove taxi and was a doorman. Sometimes they had to decide whether to continue the boy’s driving business or make an indoor toilet. They didn’t and the boys got to continue. “Once we came all the way from Belgium to Finland with only a Shell credit card. Fortunately the family stuck together!” Matti tells. “Sometimes we had moments of doubts but aren’t bad times meant to be won”, he challenges. “We never had the feeling that we should quit. Sometimes we just realized that we don’t have enough money. We cried in the telephone to one way and another so that we could continue”, Paula talks. “The family has all the time been very closely together, we have shared both the joy and the sorrow. Because of course there has been sorrow and disappointments too. Winning is a rare treat”, Matti defines.
The family’s inside joke is what Kimi said when they were going home through Italy that “I will get you a castle from here one day”. “It came so sincerely from Kimi. And when we came from another race that went bad, Kimi pointed at a castle that was in really bad shape that “I’ll buy you a castle like that mom, I don’t have enough money to buy another one”, Matti laughs.
There are wild rumours about Kimi’s salary at Sauber, but it’s clear that it’s seven- or eight-numbered figures and you could even build a toilet of marble with golden handles with that money. “We don’t have to support Kimi anymore. In that way things got easier about a year ago. Kimi is living on his own earnings and we have definitely noticed that!” Räikkönens say. “I don’t want life to change, I want it to stay as it was before”, Matti says. “This has been Kimi’s dream but it was never our dream. We have just lived and helped him the best we could to get forward. In this genre the hunger gets bigger and bigger when you realize that you have talent, you have to take it to the end and see where it takes you”, Paula says.
“Many can say that I live through my children. It’s not true. We just got a hobby that combined the whole family and it started growing bigger”, Matti says. They both thank their employers who have been flexible and understanding. That has been essential to the whole business, it wouldn’t have worked out if we couldn’t hold our vacations in parts, they say.
Brothers are like night and day
So what is this Kimi Raikkonen like – according to his parents? “He is gutsy and terribly stubborn but also very sensitive”, mother says. “I think that Kimi has grown all the time along with his career. Of course he has taken damn big steps during the last days but I have never been worried about the boy’s head”, father says. “Kimi isn’t more mature than others his age. When he has time his friends come over and they go to sauna according to the long schedule and go to a disco after that. He has a girlfriend and things like that, he is an ordinary boy”, mother says. The girlfriend is cute and wonderful but she doesn’t want to be in the spotlight. “Kimi has lived in Holland and England, of course that helps to grow up and become independent”, father thinks.
The brothers are like night and day.” Rami was something like seven when we said that he is the smartest person in our family. Rami always thinks first before acting, Kimi is the complete opposite, does first and figures out afterwards what he went and did”, father laughs. Mother calls the firstborn a diplomat. “Rami started driving a motorbike when he was 3,5 years old. You couldn’t give Kimi one until he was 5. Kimi’s nature is of the kind that you go always flat out”, Matti describes. “They drove karting together. Rami was softer, you can see his goodness best when you drive against time or against your own best performance. He is much softer than Kimi as a driver. You have to be more aggressive and rude on the track. It was clear ever since they were small that they both drive in their own style. They didn’t want to learn from each other – not even if we tried. They both thought that the other one had no hands – therefore you can’t learn anything from him”, father tells. He regrets a little of his sketching and says that you can’t compare your two boys, both are equally dear. But you can read between the lines that Rami is better off in rally where he can drive alone, Kimi again is better on a track where he can squeeze in, ambush, overtake, go flat out, put others in line without endangering anyone.
“The boys were always together ever since they were small. I almost cried when I looked at albums and saw that in every picture there were two boys. The other one was alone in only a few pictures, they were always together and did everything together”, Paula says. “Of course they had fights, you polish one another through them. But the relationship and the foundation is there even though they wouldn’t see each other that often”, she continues.
Many take part in a lottery, only one wins
They´re talking about an eye for the game. Should you also talk about an eye for driving, a natural ability to find the best driving line and realize what braking causes in different situations? “Absolutly. Everybody develops if they repeat enough but I also believe that there is talent. Someone can learn to reach a certain level and some other can already be there when he starts and continue somewhere else where the other one never will reach”, Matti describes. Kimi Räikkönen is a driver talent, everybody has agreed upon that, even those who have been doubtful about his quick progress to F1. Physiotherapist Jukka Viitasaari who has tuned the slim Kimi during last months into a young man who is tougher than an arrow goes totally reckless. Viitasaari has worked a lot with drivers but he compares Kimi to Mozart, a genious in his own profession who can play any instrument: cello, violin, piano – everything goes and everything plays. Without even coughing Kimi jumped from a 185-horsepowered Formula Renault into an 800-horsepowered F1-car. “Kimi has always stood out somehow and he has been picked and taken forward because of his driving skills and showings, we really didn’t have the money and we haven’t bought Kimi one single seat”, Paula Räikkönen says realistically. It was a surprise for those in the Sauber-team how efficiently and analytically Kimi is able to tell what kind of setups he wants to the car and why. “Ever since Kimi learned to walk he has fumbled with all kinds of gadgets. I don’t think that anybody can make a fast car for anyone. Everybody wants a bit different setups and you have to be able to tell what it feels like and what might cause it”, Matti explains.
Kimi was in technical school’s car-department for 1,5 year until he had to leave school for other engagements. Many of his class mates didn’t even know what the guy was doing – which tells a lot about the young man’s character. Concentration and self-confidence are in the right place in Kimi. He often says: you should not bow in front of pictures, “we all eat the same oatmeal”.
Eddie Irvine wished Kimi welcome as his collegue, Ralf Schumacher again gave doubtful statements. Kimi thinks that everybody can think what they want, it isn’t his business. Matti says diplomatically like this: “Very few gets into F1, someone’s success is always taken away from someone else. Kimi has taken someone’s job who has been driving for a long time and dreamt of the same thing. Tens of thousands wishful boys race all over the world in different races and they all have the same dream burning in their veins: The Royal Class. 22 gets in there. Many take part in lotteries and somebody always wins it”, Matti says.
Are you scared? “Everything is always possible. Anything can happen in normal traffic. In Europe we are more afraid of the journeys there than we are of the tracks”, Räikkönens answer. Paula tells that the bigger classes that look so daring when watching from the television always made her think with pleasure that fortunately our boys never get that far but when getting there they have proved to be okay. The boy has learned and matured during the journey. But as a mother she can’t watch the races, it’s too exciting. “Sometimes we have said when dreaming that if Kimi ever gets to F1 we will go to the first race! It’s just a shame that it’s so far away in Melbourne!” Paula sighs – so far they have seen only one GP.
You can always come home
Many families have some kind of advice they say to their kids when they walk out the door. Behave, drive carefully, remember to call. “Our boys haven’t had time to circulate in any gangs but I always tell them when they are going somewhere that “keep your sense in your hand”. If someone jumps into a well then you don’t have to jump after. Think before you do something”, Paula says. “And you can always come home. No matter what happens you can always come home, the door is open”, Kimi’s father continues. Kimi comes from F1-Racing-magazine’s photo shooting, the Swiss filming teams is buzzing around him – they are making a portrait of Kimi to a German channel’s sport news. Kimi is quiet, careful, a man of few words. He grins if the other one really makes an effort to entertain him – his dad says that he has always strived to pull tricks and fool his boys so that they wouldn’t become too serious. The hero gets to come home for Christmas from Barcelona’s testing. He has already got his parents christmas-presents – although he already gave the best around the Independence Day.
When the news about Kimi’s F1-seat spread, Matti Räikkönen’s 4 cellphones got swamped with congratulations. Even Mika Salo’s father called to congratulate. Someone brought a beautiful rosebush and two bottles of champagne to their yard, otherwise life has gone on like before.
But it’s just calm before the tornado.