Iceman Kimi Räikkönen

The unexpectedly revealing life of Kimi

Handy chef.

Perfect neighbour.

Oh, and F1 world champion.

The unexpectedly revealing life of

Kimi

Kimi´s is the sort of multi-million pound place you see on those TV property programmes. An immaculately plush apartment, just outside Helsinki. Beautiful wooden floors. Glass panels everywhere. For gadget fans, a preposterous TV screen which drops down from ceiling, and 4ft-high stereo speakers that must be worth an awful lot of cash. Every part of it just says, in a non-flashy yet matter-of-fact way, expensive. The best you can get. An amidst it all, perfectly at home, sits Kimi Räikkönen. So that´s what being a world champion with Ferrari buys you. This is Kimi´s homeland retreat when he´s not at his other place in Switzerland, or in fancy hotels around the world. It´s him all over – non-flashy yet, in a matter-of-fact way, the best. Sat on a no-doubt pricey and expansive sofa, probably not purchased in a DFS sale, Ferrari´s world champion has always been a bit of an enigma. „Boring“, they say. „Doesn´t really care,“ sneer others. „Can´t be bothered to talk to the media“ is another favourite. The truth is much more frustrating: no one really knows what he´s like. Revealing interviews are not Kimi´s bag. It´s a shame because, as you´re about to read, he straightforward, candid and actually really funny. Totally deadpan, like a Finnish Jimmy Carr. Boring? Not on this evidence…

What gets you up in the morning?
I don´t get up, when I wake up it´s around noon. If I don´t have anything special to do, I sleep as long as I´m tired. I´m never in a bad mood or cranky in the mornings, I just don´t wake up if I´m not interested in getting up. It´s not a question of needing a certain amount of sleep – I sleep as long as I´m tired. I can easily sleep a whole day, no problem.

How long does it take you to get over a bad result?
The bad feeling goes as quickly as it comes. It pisses you off for a a second, but then you forget it. I´ve always been like this. When I first started our racing, our car used to break down all the time and you couldn´t do anything about it apart from cry and complain. Complaining doesn´t help anything – the result stays the same.

How are you treated in Finland?
Nowadays things are fine. From last year onwards I´ve not had that many issues. It´s always been the same: if you do something they´re in your face, there´s nothing you can do about it. In general, things are better than before. At one point it was really bad, but I have no complaints.

What does it mean to drive for Ferrari and be world champion with them?
It´s the best thing that´s ever happened in my career. The most I´ve ever wanted from anything in my life was to win the world championship, and the first time it came was with Ferrari, and that makes it even better. Plus, the way that it happened made it even sweeter.

How important is it for you to drive for a team that respects your personality and lifestyle?
For sure, it´s important. It´s one of the big reasons I came to Ferrari. No one was demanding that I change. I live the way I live, I am as I am and the team is happy with it.

You must be a hero in Italy – what´s it like when you go there?
It´s always nice to go to Italy. I like the place in any case – I liked it even as a little kid when I was driving karts. Of course it depends on which part you go to, but they don´t pay attention to you and they don´t stare. OK, you´ve always got the fanatics, but that´s the same anywhere in the world that i go to. I don´t actually hang around in Italy that much. I´m usually at the factory at Maranello or some circuit watching my mate Toni Vilander in the GT races. People always want autographs, but hey, it´s the same everywhere.

How much Italian do you know?
Well, I do understand some, or at least a little. I haven´t spoken that much. I can say a few words, but it´s not as if I can say a lot of long sentences.

Vodka or chianti?
I´m not a red wine man. I´ve never really liked it.

Pasta or reindeer stew?
Both are fine. You can eat pasta anywhere, but I usually eat reindeer stew in Lapland, like everyone. Good food is always good food.

Have you managed to learn to cook perfect pasta yet?
Yep. It´s never hard to cook pasta. I don´t have a „Kimi Special“, but I always like what I make. That´s the key to making pasta. I don´t know if it comes out perfect, but I add all sorts of stuff to it and it comes out alright.

What´s your ideal day?
A day when I can do whatever I want. It could be anything: a race day, test day or free day. I like to spend time with my closest friends and family, but an ideal day also includes a small break for exercise. I´m the type of person that needs to exercise for a short period of time, every day.

How involved were you with designing and building your home here in Helsinki?
This Finnish apartment was furnished to Jenni´s and my liking. But, for our Swiss house, Jenni and I have slowly planned and built it to our specific tastes.

How often do you go to your home in Switzerland?
I do get to spend time there. Of course, during the summer and winter I go to Finland a lot, but I spend most nights in Switzerland. I´m not completely sure. My home is there and that´s where I can be at peace. From Switzerland it´s easy to move about. Most of the year I spend in hotels all around the world. I´ve never counted how many days I travel, but it´s a hell of a lot.

How much did those massive speakers cost?
I don´t know, I didn´t actually buy them – they came with the house. They were made out of stone by some guy in Austria.

What´s the biggest party that you´ve ever thrown?
My wedding was the biggest, but that wasn´t here. Every summer Jenni and I have a large summer party here where we grill food, drink and listen to music.

Have you ever had any complaints from the neighbours?
They´ve actually never complained about anything. In Switzerland no one cares and here in Finland they care even less. We don´t do anything for them to complain about.

Do you think you´re a good neighbour?
Of course – I´m the perfect neighbour. My work schedule means I´m never here.

 Kimi´s sense of humour is something that takes you totally by surprise. Like everything else that comes out of his mouth, one-liners are delivered sharply. Purposefully. Clinically. It´s just the Finnish way. Ask an Italian a question and you´ll probably get an effusive, lengthy response accompanied by wild hand gestures. Ask a Brit and you´ll probably get something more rambling. Ask a Finn a question and they just, well, answer it. And Kimi is typical of his countrymen. There´s no messing around. Everything. Is. In. Really. Short. Sentences. But he´s deceptively charming chap, and in a sport where many of the major players hide behind sponsor-friendly soundbites you´ve heard a million times before, he´s disarmingly honest. Even more refreshingly, he´ll discuss any topic you care to mention. As talk turns to more personal themes – his career, his relationships, Bernie, Lewis, his lack of emotion after winning a grand prix – the Formula 1 world champion simply gives a nonchalant shrug of his grey-suited shoulders, a piercing glance of those almost disconcertingly blue-grey eyes…and remains totally constant.

How long do you think you´ll carry on in Formula 1?
I have no idea. I concentrate on today. I´m concentrating on this season and it´s pointless to think any further ahead.

How far ahead do you plan your life?
I plan one day at a time. I´ve never made long-term plans. Maybe sometimes I might plan a week ahead. If you decide you want to go somewhere you have to know whether you have races or tests. Then you have to adjust whatever you´ve planned.

Do you have any desire to overtake Michael Schumacher´s number of world titles?
No way. That´s far too much of a long-term project. I´m satisfied with what I´ve achieved and whatever lies ahead is a bonus.

Who´s your best friend, and how often do you see them?
I have a few very close friends and I´m in contact with them nearly every day. But because of my work, I don´t get to see them very often.

Who´s your best friend in F1?
In Ferrari we´re all good friends, but I would say Gino Rosato – we get on well and he knows something about ice hockey. I think it´s possible to have good friends in F1 – I have friends in all the teams I´ve worked. In F1 everyone is professional and some people become closer friends than others.

At a charity auction in Monaco, you bought Sharon Stone´s old Corvette. Have you driven it yet?
I haven´t even got it yet. It will arrive in Switzerland one day. I don´t know if I´ll ever drive it though.

What car do you take to the shops?
I usually take the Alfa Romeo.

What´s the silliest promotion you´ve been asked to do as an F1 driver?
There have been all kinds of events, but to put one at the top of the list would be extremely hard.

How do Ferrari and Mclaren compare as teams to drive for?
Both teams have different ways of working and leading…

What was your best ever F1 race?
That´s a hard one. It´s the type of race where afterwards you don´t feel you could have performed better. But if I have to choose, let´s say Nürburgring 2003, when I led the race really easily from pole until the car broke down. Also Barcelona this year, when I nailed it.

What does the perfect lap feel like?
Really good. Better than sex.

What is the best circuit for you?
It has to be Spa. I´ve won the last three races there. But the one I really want to win is Monza.

How did you stay confident that you could win the title last year? Did you ever stop believing?
My way of working has always been that if it´s possible in theory to win the championship, then it can be done. I never give up. Anything can happen in F1.

What´s your opinion on the „Lewis-mania“ that surrounds Hamilton?
I´m not remotely interested. If there is such a thing, ask him how it feels.

What did you really want to say to Lewis in Canada after he drove into you in the pitlane?
Nothing. There was nothing to say. I would have said something if I´d had something to say. Nothing was holding me back.

What would you be if you weren´t a racing driver?
I´d just be a professional in some other sport.

Bernie Ecclestone said you made no effort for the sport outside of the car. What was your reaction to that?
I don´t need to do that kind of stuff. Marketing F1 is not my job. I drive and there´s enough of a challenge in that for me.

What´s your relationship with Bernie?
It´s OK. I know him and every time we see each other we have a chat. We´ve never had any issues.

Why don´t you show more emotion after winning a race?
It´s not my style. Yeah, winning feels good, but I´m not the type of guy to jump up and down and rub it in everyone´s face.

Is your undemonstrative personality a deliberate tactic in the F1 paddock to protect yourself?
I don´t have any thought in the back of my head. I am the way I want to be.

„I am the way I want to be.“ That´s Kimi Räikkönen…He´s a pretty uncomplicated bloke, and at the centre of what makes him happy is just being able to drive fast and win races with as few peripheral distractions as possible. After the huge sponsorship commitments that went with the territory at Mclaren, it´s no surprise that Kimi is thriving at a team who simply accept him as he is – as long as he gives his all when he´s in the car. What´s is a surprise is hearing the real Kimi come through. The neighbourly fellow with a fondness for throwing barbecues. The normal chap who likes knocking up a mean pasta dish. The professional athlete who can sleep all day if he feels like it. And, if he can retain his world title, the hugely gifted Finn who quietly became a Ferrari legend.

From: F1Racing (September 2008), Text (Heikki Kulta)
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