The silence from the forest
He is the great unknown of Formula 1 and corresponds to every stereotype that exists of Finns: world champion Kimi Räikkönen talks few, loves sauna, and when he drinks, then until you drop. A search at the start of the new season.
Kurutie is the Finnish word for ravine, and there is a gorge, through which runs a small road, rocky and overgrown, surrounded by forests of Espoo. A few hundred meters further surges over the highway from Helsinki to Turku. Here he comes, the champion with the cloak of invisibility: Kimi Räikkönen, 28, Ferrari driver, an estimated 25 million € annual salary. There were street workers in the 1930s, street workers like Kimi’s father and grandfather, who founded this settlement. Dark red is the parents’ house, of wood, you can see, it was renovated, the porch is new and the roof, there is an inside toilet now a long time ago, but the typical Finnish outhouse there is out there, too. And besides, there stands this garage made of corrugated iron, big as a three-family house from which flows a smell of full throttle. The Temple of the Räikkönens´. It is a gnarled world from which comes the champion. The last great unknown in the brightly-lit formula 1, a sport in which one believes to know everything about the heroes – therein Räikkönen, who looks so friendly and is so uncommunicative, is a cataract. A guy like from a film by Aki Kaurismäki, his countryman. There, in dark nights horrible dressed people wandering around, with furrowed faces, silent of melancholy.
“I could not care less”
Is he perhaps just extremely shy? His former boss Ron Dennis baptized him once “Iceman”, many think he is cool, others cold. His appearances offside the track, after the victory fail consistently anyway. As in São Paulo and in early 2008, Ferrari has traditionally invited to the Ski-Days to Madonna di Campiglio, earlier talked Signore Schumacher, now Kimi sits there. The photo wallpaper sensationally with the Dolomite peaks at his back makes him look thin. The night before he rushed down the steep slope without lights at the torch relay, in the end he filled up himself properly full, it has become a bit late. Now he fights apparently with strange voices in his head, the simultaneous translation will be aborted. Feels like 16 of 17 questions he answered with “Oh Donn Kähr”. This is not English, not Finnish, but Kimish for: but I could not care less. “Typically Kimi,” said Rami Räikkönen, 31, his older brother, “but that is not obstinate, he is simply a Finn. We only say something when we have something to say.” Finns hate small talk. Anyone who is friendly, admits he has nothing to say. One has therefore to imagine Kimi Räikkönen as a very polite man. His brother leads the visit to the garage, where the fleet of the family houses. “Our toys” says Rami, and proudly displays: a truck to transport the rally cars, snowmobiles, a Hummer, three “Legend Cars, miniature replicas of historical models that Kimi’s father Matti himself uses for race driving, including tools, tires and spare parts. Rami is a mechanic with own tuning shop, with 1.85 meters, 10cm higher than Kimi. He points to the garden, which descend to forest: “Here we have begun to race, with tiny motocross bikes,” he says. “We have made a competition out of everything. Of course, it was about who drives faster, but also who can stay longer in the sauna or can pee farther. Kimi is so ambitious that it is difficult to imagine. He has, even though he smaller and weaker, won much more often than I did. And if once he did not win, he trained until he was better. “
Räikkönen family lives for racing
Finns call this persistence, which we believe anchored in the national character, “sisu” – and Kimi has sisu more than the most. He always gives everything and he never gives up. That tells his father, who, when his son became world champion last October, shaved off the silver-gray hairs. For the third time he ran around with a bald head, he does it with every important career move by Kimi. Meanwhile, the hair grew back, the hair cut now reminds to Playmobil-Men. From Dad, the boys have the gap between the incisors. He has terminated his job, he now manages Kimi’s homes in Finland. Matti Räikkönen is a man like a bear, he chain-smokes and wears sneakers, rough corduroy trousers, a plaid flannel shirt. But in Finland professors are clothed like this too. Paula, the mother, blonde highlights in her hair, shows her Diamond Rolex: “A gift from Kimi!” She, the former employee of a pension fund, is employed by her son as well for a long time, “he touchingly takes care of us, he always says he wants to give us back what we have done for him.”
He Announce the resignation? Two more years is running his contract yet, Ferrari was shocked. Managing Director Jean Todt was quick to say: “I’m sure – so far I can be sure at this point – that Kimi is happy at Ferrari.” A strange relationship this North-South alliance. The Ferraristi worship Räikkönen, they try with all sincerity, to break him, but he cannot be cracked is what impresses them. His confidants say that he actually doesn´t care what the world thinks of him. And he behaves like this as well. Like an apathetic world-champion. This image is a disaster for a Formula 1 boss. And Räikkönen’s best weapon. He is not irritable pride in the way as the Spaniard Alonso, Renault, he has not the inner compulsion to want to make it all quite like the smooth Briton Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes.
His self-image corresponds to the usual modesty in Finland. “Punainen tupa ja perunamaa” – a red cottage and a potato field, that is what one wishes there for a wedding, a symbol for small happiness. To want to be something special is considered unseemly. Räikkönen lives in Switzerland, in a house with a garden, not in glittering Monaco as many competitors do, there all would be too small for him. He cooks by himself, says his mother. It is a family that early lived for racing, similar to the Schumachers. On the weekends they traveled in their old motor home and trailer around the country, the karts of the boys back inside the trailer. “This has welded us,” says the mother. The hobby of the boys was extremely expensive. Therefore, the father repaired cars by illegal employment, worked nights as a bouncer. Every penny Paula and Matti Räikkönen invested in their sons – even when at last the money was saved up for an indoor toilet, one of the karts was broken. No question, what was bought: “What is a toilet compared to two happy boys?” says Matti Räikkönen. “Years ago,” recalls his mother, “Kimi was about eight, he has snuggled up to me one evening and said, “Mom, I’ll be a world champion one day. But I do not know in what sport.” That he became now in Formula 1, he triumphed in a season in which the ideal line seemed to be a snake. 26 points deficit Räikkönen had in the summer because his Ferrari was bitchy too often. Still 7 points before the final race against Lewis Hamilton, and 3 points against Fernando Alonso. In the end he kept his nerve, came to 110 points, the two rivals on 109. The fans are already talking about the World-Championship final of the century.
The “couldn’t be buggered” champion
If, the new season starts on 16 March in Melbourne, Räikkönen will have to show if he keeps the format of a world champion and lives up to the expectations. His wife, Jenni, a former model, is rarely with him at the race – an affront. The World Cup trophy, that was presented to him in December, dusty for weeks in the Ferrari factory in Maranello. And after the final sprint of 2007, he said: “I have achieved everything, everything else is just a bonus.”
Racer, nothing else
As simple as he is ticking on the slopes: You just have to give him a fast car, then he goes fast. At Ferrari Michael Schumacher is responsible for it, the seven-time world champion. He once loved shoptalk for hours with the engineers, each time his successor is the first one who leaves the track. At the beginning Räikkönen asked astonished from the cockpit, “What’s button is that for?” The technician replied, “Michael wanted that one.” Would Räikkönen be better if he would care more for technology, strategy? Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug saw him for five futile attempted titles. “Kimi is like a hard disk that is not even half full,” he says. “Many drivers are already overloaded with the things they have to provide. He is not.” But until today the Ferrari engineers ask veteran Schumacher, if they want to know in which direction they should further develop the car. Räikkönen doesn´t care about that. After he won a year ago right at his first race, the inspired Jean Todt handed him a mobile phone the victory podium. An animated Michael Schumacher was on, but Räikkönen gave the phone back quickly: “I was not able to understand him.” Unmoved to apathy – that one should not take personally, “says Rami Räikkönen. “It’s not that he only speaks not much in interviews. With him there are long moments of silence.” If Kimi is guest in the house of his brother, and it was a fun evening, Rami often find an empty bed on the next morning. No note, nothing. “If he is bored, he simply disappears. Kimi cannot sit still well, he always needs a plan.” The eternal fight forward. What else should someone like him become than a racer?
The fact that Kimi Räikkönen really has a heart for racing, he only shows at home – in the garage. On the ceiling, lit up by spotlights, is a silver arrow, which he drove himself before. The best view of the McLaren-Mercedes you have from the top floor. Here waits a bar made of glass and chrome, including pinball, pool table and an old kicker. A couch group surrounds the glass table on which all Formula 1 circuits are engraved. Above hangs a flat screen, three meters wide, nearly two meters high. You can turn it in the direction of the sauna, which is next door and has a large window. The entire room: the fulfillment of a boy’s dream. Räikkönen’s friends tell that Kimi love to eat at the Burger Shop at the gas station around the corner. At parties he is following the men-advice: “Work hard and drink hard.” Many Finns find that it’s not worth, if they drink to drink only a little. Alcohol is expensive – so why to pay it, when you do not want an intoxication? So it is in principle no shame when their master drinks on evening a whole bottle of vodka. And when he is drunk he falls from the upper deck of a yacht, this is the same. “My God, it was summer, the boys celebrated a little bit,” his father says, smiling. “What do you think, where I fell down drunk everywhere when I was young?”