It seems like Kimi Raikkonen has always had a rather enigmatic career. When the young Finn was selected to pair with German Nick Heidfeld at Sauber for the 2001 Formula One season, Raikkonen had only competed in 23 races. So inexperienced was he, in fact, that FIA President Max Mosley refused to grant Raikkonen a full FIA super license (or super licence, as it is spelled across the pond). After scoring points in his debut, however, Raikkonen quickly positioned himself as one of the elite drivers in Formula One.
Yet even after his ninth year in Formula One, Raikkonen is still a mystery in many ways. While tales of his off the track exploits are the stuff of legend among F1 fans (gorilla suits always seem to attract a few eyeballs), his demeanor has also been classified as cold and withdrawn (they don?t call him the ?Iceman? for nothing, you know). While he has, at times, been criticized for not giving 100% (insert your own 7th grade football coach?s clichés here), his career had been defined by his breathtaking performances and stunning triumphs. As the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is upon us, there is the possibility that we may see Kimi?s last race in Formula One. As a result, this writing may come across as a combination of one part career obituary and one part persuasive piece. If this indeed is Kimi?s last race, F1 will be losing both a unique personality and a genuine talent.
There is no doubt in my mind that Kimi Raikkonen is an outstanding driver. His 2003 Championship Battle with Schumacher. The Drive of the Decade in Suzuka in ?05. The amazing comeback to take the title in?07. Moments that all drivers lie awake at night dreaming of, all moments that Kimi has made into reality. This season is no different. Most of my postings on the race comment boards have included praise for Kimi Raikkonen?s drives. The fact that Ferrari is in the battle for third place in the Constructors? Championship is a testament to Kimi sheer talent and perseverance. Even after Ferrari ended development on the F60 moths before the season ended. Even after Kimi was abandoned like Woody in favor of Buzz Lightyear in the form of Fernando Alonso. When looking at the struggles of his interim-teammate Giancarlo Fisichella, Raikkonen further cements his standing as an elite driver in Formula One. His victory at Spa-Francorchamps must rank as the most impressive victory this season. The fact of the matter is, he still has ?it?, and can still turn the wheel like few in motorsports can.
I?m sure there are many long time F1 fans have caught themselves longing for ?simpler times.? ?Where James Hunt bringing his dog into a fancy restaurant?? they ask as they reminisce about the days where ?real men? were behind the wheel. It?s silly to reminisce, because Kimi is the real thing right now! Most of us are beyond tired of the squeaky clean corporate puppets known as drivers today. Isn?t Kimi?s retort to Martin Brundle?s question at the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix what we want more of from the drivers? As the era of the corporate shill continues to expands, it?s refreshing to say the least when a driver gives an intentionally dumb response to an equally dumb question.
While I can?t say that I am the biggest fan of McLewi? McLaren, the fact that it is Woking or bust for the man from Espoo leads me to hope that a reunification between Raikkonen and McLaren will happen. While I?ll still watch F1 until it becomes the FIA Persian Gulf Championship, it would be a shame to see Kimi Raikkonen, still in the prime of his career, not being a part of it. The enigma that is Kimi Raikkonen makes F1 all the more interesting.
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