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Räikkönen's victory provides closure on Ferrari tenure

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Roar Guru
22nd October, 2018
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Just when it appeared the day would never arrive and in the twilight of his Ferrari relationship, Kimi Räikkönen broke through for an immensely popular victory at the United States Grand Prix, which represented his first in almost six years.

111 starts and over 2000 days since standing atop the podium at Australia in 2013, the Finn finally delivered on the promise he’s displayed this season previously without reward in undoubtedly his best campaign since commencing his second Ferrari tenure.

The victory, more than nine years and 102 starts in red since his last triumph with the Italian outfit in their initial partnership, offers closure on a frustrating five years whilst softening Ferrari’s decision to jettison Räikkönen in favour of Charles Leclerc from 2019.

The 39-year old remains the Prancing Horse’s most recent World Champion.

An argument could be compiled for why it should have retained him following the result, though as unpopular as the call was pragmatic in embracing Leclerc as the future, the man himself and his fans can take comfort in the success as vindication that he remains capable at an age which most have long ago hung up their helmets.

In his inimitable fashion, Räikkönen remarked, “obviously I’m happier than finishing second. I’m happy but let’s see later on”, alluding to inevitable celebrations, and despite asserting that “it’s not a big deal for me, it’s a much bigger deal for a lot of the people”, he’s certain to have drawn satisfaction from his effort.

“Just proving some people wrong is enough for me” speaks to the fundamental elements of the Finn’s purpose for carrying on, which he’ll be doing for at least a further two seasons at Sauber, bringing his career full circle having debuted with the Swiss outfit in 2001.

Outwardly at least, Räikkönen appears content with his competitive achievements, citing that “I had my time with Ferrari, I won my championship with them, I won many races with them…”, but as a devoted family man, he carries different expectations and objectives into his second stint at Sauber.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen celebrates on the podium

Kimi Raikkonen on the podium. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

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Victories are an unlikely prospect, a factor which has frequently disheartened his resolve, and while it renders his Texas salute even more poignant, his claim that “I’m actually really happy to go there, it’s (Sauber’s Hinwil factory) roughly forty minutes from my home… my family will be happy and I’m happy to be with my family”, is a positive indication that the Finn won’t be phoning it in with his mind elsewhere.

From this perspective, allowing Räikkönen to enjoy the best of both worlds mean his fans can continue to revel in his personality in the knowledge that he’ll remain motivated and providing more moments of levity when everybody else can’t see the lighter side.

If Sauber’s Leclerc inspired development curve this season manifests in a 2019 package which is strong from the outset, coupled with the Finn’s ability, he’ll be far from making up the numbers or having to punch above his weight and leading the midfield will be a realistic ambition.

Released from the burden of playing the support role to Sebastian Vettel, instead with an opportunity to consolidate Sauber’s momentum and mentor his incoming team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi, parallels can be drawn to his spell at Lotus which included victories and title contention.

Räikkönen’s time at Ferrari has been long and painful, failing to eclipse the heights reached in his first season in 2007. Regardless of how the final three races unfold, its last World Champion has signed off on a memorable note, providing everybody with a reminder that when circumstance doesn’t intervene as it has with such frequency, he can still cut it.

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