It’s easy to forget sometimes that Kimi Räikkönen is still even on the Formula One grid, with the 2007 world champion and veteran of 341 Grands Prix starts currently racing around the back of the midfield in an Alfa Romeo Sauber.
But that’s the understated nature of the Iceman that keeps him forever a fan-favourite and the 41-year old’s own desire to continue racing at the pinnacle, even after his days of fighting for podiums and wins were done.
Now the enigmatic Finn has called it a day on his near two-decade-long career in Formula One, which began for the Sauber team, revealing via Instagram that 2021 will be his final campaign.
“It was not an easy decision but after this season it is time for new things,” one reads by imitating the famous monotone mumble.
On pure numbers alone, Räikkönen may not impress many as would the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and even Fernando Alonso in the modern era. However, it is the Finn’s longevity and unique character that truly makes him a legend of the sport.
2007’s title triumph for Ferrari, which still stands as their most recent driver’s world championship, was achieved in his typical subtle fashion. While all the focus was on the warring McLaren teammates Hamilton and Alonso, Räikkönen came through at the end of the season to win by a single point.
When Ferrari wanted to replace him with Alonso at the end of 2009, Räikkönen walked away and sampled rallying before in 2012 making a comeback with Lotus, who are now Alpine. There while only achieving two wins across the two years, it was the memorable moments such as his team radio communications and close battles with Vettel at Red Bull that reminded everyone how good he was.
“Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing,” were the words muttered on the radio to engineer Simon Rennie en route to that Abu Dhabi Grand Prix win in 2012, further propelling Räikkönen into a cult sensation in Formula One.
Especially during a time where drivers were criticised for a lack of personality and when social media was taboo in the paddock, Räikkönen gave the fans an enigma that they could truly worship, whether it was if he was spotted eating ice cream during the rain-shortened Malaysian race in 2009 or bluntly telling Martin Brundle on live television about missing a presentation from legendary footballer Pelé to Michael Schumacher.
The return to Ferrari in 2014 sadly yielded little, which was disappointing given the romance in Räikkönen achieving further success for the Scuderia was consigned to just a pipedream. Winning the United States Grand Prix in 2018 was a fitting farewell from Formula One’s winning circles before stepping down to where he’s at now at Alfa Romeo.
Again, the results may not speak highly of the Iceman since returning to where his career started – but it is the motivation that the man himself has reiterated has kept him in Formula One.
By season’s end, Räikkönen will be the first driver to have reached the 350 Grands Prix milestone too. Which surely is going to be a statistic that he’ll “bwoah” to before starting life after Formula One with his young family by his side.