Thin Ice – In the cave of the Iceman
The “Iceman” is melting. Kimi Räikkönen is unveiling his home in Finland. Here, he spends his time when he’s not driving around the circle – relaxed, self-sufficient, and yes: Now and then he laughs. A visit at the boss-pilot of McLaren-Mercedes, in 2006 he can push his market value into astronomical heights.
In the middle of nowhere behind Helsinki: The wind whips fine snow on the highway. It’s freezing cold. Children, who are packed like polar explorers exit the school buses. A few mailboxes lean on the wayside, like lost. Kimi Räikkönen’s management had transmitted us the address and asked for utmost discretion. As if someone would get lost here, an hour away from the Finnish capital. At last we are at the gates of the property. The 3D display of the navigation system displays about 300 meters of land, then begins pixelated blue, the Baltic Sea. No bell. Only fence. Jenni Dahlman-Räikkönen, Kimi’s wife calls and says her husband is coming soon. In that moment a gigantic black Jeep turn onto the dirt road. The two-time vice world-champion gets out. His 1.75-meter height disappears in front of the giant car. “Hi, I’m Kimi. Come in.” Between spruce trees that provide the wind the cortex, is his winter home. The house is divided into two parts, connected by a glazed central section. The Räikkönen´s had spent the night in their apartment in Helsinki. Kimi is throwing a few logs in the fireplace and fuels the fire. The 1999 built house he bought just before Christmas 2003. “Here I spend most of the winter-time.” Most of the drivers, David Coulthard and Nick Heidfeld for example, overwinter in the warm Monte Carlo. “I do not know what to do there. Here are my friends, my family and I can do what I enjoy. Here I can gather strength.”
Strength, that the 26-year-old McLaren Mercedes driver will need. Team boss Ron Dennis had stunned the industry – and committed to the new world champion Fernando Alonso in 2007. The Renault team, Flavio Briatore and foremost, was livid. Kimi and Juan Pablo Montoya so are standing in front of a fight for the free McLaren cockpit. “That’s a very normal situation. You want to beat a team-mate anyway,” he says. And he always has, except his first Formula 1 season, 2001 with the Sauber team. Here he lost the final statement against Nick Heidfeld, who drives BMW today. But since switching to McLaren-Mercedes in 2002 no companion was able to keep up with him. In 2003, he had lost the World Championship with only three points to Michael Schumacher, last season he won seven races, but clearly failed at the end of Alonso and reliability of the Renaults. Kimi was clearly the fastest driver, but too often the car kicked the bucket. Approximately € 14 million Räikkönen earns per season. That lets look the villa modest. No maids here attend on the couple. At the entrance of the room hangs a wooden sign: “Tervetuola”. Welcome! Kitchen and living room are housed in a large, high room. In the fridge is a little salami and toast. A door leads into the bedroom, the purple bedding is crumpled.
“Let’s go down to the sea, while it is still light,” says Kimi and throw on a leather jacket. Halfway down the slope is the guest house. From the sauna you can look down to the Baltic Sea. “My father likes to come here at the summer to fish here. We also have a small boat and two jet-skis. We are in half an hour in Helsinki.” The small boat, that he emphasizes, is strong enough to be able to pull him for wake-boarding. You can imagine, how life comes into the beach. Now it is still covered with a layer of ice. The reed is waiting, frozen stiff, for the spring. Peace. Kimi shows the sea and is one with the silence. Among Formula 1 journalist his nickname “Iceman” arose, less out of admiration, but rather from anger about his inaccessibility. But what he should tell all the people? He only wants to drive because that is what he does best. And Sunday night, when the engines fall silent, he would have liked to beam home. To the beach and the pines. Money? Is a motive for him, but no passion. Fame? Seems he could not care. Peace! It is the most valuable for him. Because of this, a visit at his home was an absolute taboo so far. Back at the house, we gather around the stove. Hamish, the photographer warms his bright red hands. Jenni is in her stables. The 24-year-old Miss Scandinavia from 2000 now has several horses to take care of them. “She is in the stable most of the time. In a few weeks she will even attend on show-jumping competition in Spain. I hope I can visit her.” Kimi himself is not so familiar with horses. “Twice I’ve tried it with the riding. But then I realized that I am allergic to horse hairs. But I support Jenni and I am glad she has found something that makes her fun.” On the kitchen floor are feeding dishes for sheep dog Ajax and Peppy, a female Jack Russell puppy. “Peppy makes everything easier because Ajax now has a buddy to play with. We had a dog when I was little. I wanted to have that again. My parents usually take care of the two.”
It is now pitch dark and the cold paralyzes the country. For affusion, on the flat screen TV the Discovery Channel is on. Just now a giant cobra has bitten a breeder in the stomach. The man writhes in pain. Kimi turns away from terror. “Do you want coffee?” But you need to do that on your own. I have no idea how the machine works. “On the track he has mastered a technique monster worth many millions of euros and is responsible for dozens of race engineers. But at home the science is over. Kimi takes advantage of the solitude to breathe before the most important season of his career starts. Experts call him unanimously as title favorite. But he would never forget that there is still a Michael Schumacher is with the party. “He had a lousy season last year. But Ferrari is back. I hear that the tests run very well and the Bridgestone tires seem to work better.” But if in fact he, Räikkönen, we become world champion, he can tighten his market value to astronomical heights. Almost every team constellation for 2007 would offer a place for him then. Perhaps two world champions are in the same car, Alonso and Kimi. Or, Räikkönen will replace Michael Schumacher at Ferrari, if the veteran really ends his career. It´s said that a preliminary contract with the team from Maranello exists. Toyota wants Räikkönen anyway. There are beckon 100 million € for four years. The concerned person himself does not seem to be affected by that. It is also these nonchalance that has earned him the nickname “Iceman.” But it is the biggest misconception of Formula 1, Kimi is not cool, Kimi is especially not unfriendly, Kimi is a Stoic. And as such one it is quite clear for him that he has the best cards. “But 2007 I do not care at the moment. My job is to win races and hopefully to become world champion with McLaren-Mercedes. The car was fast last season, but we have to finish more races. That was sometimes frustrating for me and the team last season. But hey, that’s racing. I’m really looking forward to the new season. “
At rest, he tells how he has digested his frustration about the coup of the team boss. He was in Dubai vacation when he came to know of Alonso’s commitment just short before the press: “I thought it would have been better if I had known earlier of the decision. But it was like this. I do not mind” Does the Partiarch try to get the smallest grain out from his drivers? “I do not know if that was his plan. It’s not my job to judge that. I want to give all in 2006.” Outside it’s snowing harder and harder. Since Kimi let fit a fitness room into the former double garage, he has to dig out his car regularly. But that does not bother him. He is used to it. He lives with the weather, he draws strength from the cold that keeps his home in the winter. But it is also threatening depression and loneliness. In the huge refrigerator in his Gym just lies a lonely bottle of Sprite and some gin long drink cans. There are circulating hard stories about alcohol and throw-outs from nightclubs. “I don´t give a fuck of that. It was just now at New Year’s Eve where a newspaper wrote that a club wouldn´t let me in. But I was not even in Helsinki. That´s killingly funny.” He laughs, actually. And he regularly sets out the best lap times on such stories. Everything else is nothing to others, he thinks, and he is undoubtedly right with that. When he shall live, if not now? The only one who really has a problem with these stories seems to be Ron Dennis. In 2004 he had written a warning to Steve Robertson, Kimi’s manager. A “wake-up call,” as Dennis called it then.
If these tabloid called 7päivää would not be there, then Finland would mean total freedom for Räikkönen. Freedom of the hype. Freedom for his head, that simply does not want to arrive in F1 Glamour. As a friend he does not refer anyone in the business. Not Mika Häkkinen, the Finn, whose cockpit he took over. “I hardly know him. I don´t have friends in the sense in Formula 1, it’s a hectic life, and I’m always happy when I come back home.” Then he plays hockey with friends and throws, like a teenager, bat and jersey in a corner of the gym where they still are now. Because of the injury he is not worried – in high contrast to the people in his racing team. “If I read my contract closely, I am even not allowed to do cross-country skiing,” he says, grinning and pointing to the skis, leaning against the stone wall. While we pack up, he rolls a suitcase into the living room and throws some clothes into it. It goes to Switzerland, to the second home in Wollerau. When I am grateful for the day, he just says “No problem”. Shortly after that we sit back in a taxi to Helsinki, as the forest begins to glow. As a UFO flies past the brightly lit SUV and disappears into the night. In life, Kimi the stoic Finn, sometimes might stand in one´s own light, but on the road nobody keeps him up. Nowhere else he is so much himself as on the asphalt. Nowhere, except at home.