Being Kimi Raikkonen

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

The guy on the right must tell really funny jokes
The guy on the right must tell really funny jokes

Yesterday I wrote about how refreshing it was to see drivers like Sebastian Vettel in the sport.

So much better, I said, than the days of miserable old Kimi Raikkonen dodging every question and sulking his way through press conferences.

Not long after writing that I went to the official opening of Ferrari?s new store in London, where Raikkonen was on PR duty . It gave me an opportunity to see just what F1 drivers do in between races and, to my surprise, it changed my mind a little about Kimi Raikkonen.

Dodging the fans

I?d only seen Raikkonen in person once before, at the Silverstone test ahead of last year?s British Grand Prix.

That occasion served to confirm the suspicions I had about Raikkonen from seeing him on TV. While the likes of Lewis Hamilton and David Coulthard took time to sign dozens of autographs for fans waiting outside their motor homes, Raikkonen ducked under the canvas of the Ferrari hospitality tent and sprinted around the crowd before they could spot him.

What a way to treat the people who buy your caps and T-shirts, I thought.

But when he was whisked into the newly-opened Ferrari Store yesterday I had the chance to see at close quarters the kinds of demands that are made on F1 drivers.

“Give us a smile, Kimi”

From the moment he set foot inside the place there were people calling after him. The room was filled with journalists and photographers (myself included), each trying to catch his attention for a photograph, or brandishing a microphone and asking a question.

Dozens of others arrived with caps and books and who knows what else for him to sign. (I?ve written before that I don?t understand why people collect autographs but they all seemed happy with the unrecognisable squiggles Raikkonen bestowed upon their various possessions).

At one point he was walking towards me when one fan gave him what must have been intended as an affectionate slap on the back but was delivered with rather too much force. I admired his restraint in not turning around and administering a shove of similar strength.

Yes, it?s the same for every other F1 driver – even the Sebastian Vettels of the world who make it look a lot more fun than Raikkonen does. And no, it?s not a great hardship to have to do a few PR events when it?s your job to race the world?s fastest cars for a living.

But I couldn?t help putting myself in his position and thinking, if I had photographers shouting at me, if I was being asked the same question 100 times a day by journalists ?ǣ in short, if I were the commodity, I doubt I?d like it any more than he does.

Pictures: Kimi Raikkonen at the Ferrari Store

Read more: Sebastian Vettel: F1?s Valentino Rossi?

88 comments on “Being Kimi Raikkonen”

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  1. I noticed this earlier this season.
    Has anyone else noticed how Kimi has taken to wearing his cap pulled real low on his head this year? He thinks he’s a little Finnish gang banger wanna-be. How cute. Not

    1. how cute? leaf trying to be cool. Not.

    2. caps look bad no matter how you wear them imo. I don’t mind how Kimi does it, but I would prefer they don’t have to wear them at all.

    3. I’m presuming when you say bad, you don’t mean good, as in ‘bad-ass’ as I believe the phrase is.


    4. Cute? I’m sure he cares about what people think about him. Yeah that’s been Kimi’s m-o for most of his career, pandering people like us so he knows he’s liked…

    5. Leaf, I noticed this too in Australia. I think its more a change of cap than wearing it differently – his 09 hat doesn’t have the usual bent peak – its flat.

      Whilst I guess its a throwback to F1’s good old days when caps first came in, but it all looks a bit Fiddy Cent to me :P

  2. yey an article not slagging Kimi off at every given opportunity :-)

    Lee Mckenzie has also he was on good form in a feature to be shown on BBC on sunday.

    I’m regretting not making it down to London even more now!

    1. The media always blame the people whose lives they delight in making uncomfortable with the same old crappy questions, and the constant quoting out of context, who can blame the celebs when all they want is to get on with the job??

  3. Leaf – not only that but its a stupid gangsta style flat peaked one like one of the Ducati motogp riders also has…you’d think they would have enough decent hats to be able to give him one!

    1. Kayleigh – Yeah, Nicky Hayden has got the same look also. It looks stupid on him too. Might as well just turn the brim completely sideways and get the full gangsta thing going. Unlike Nicky, Kimi wins a race once in a while.

  4. I went down to the store yesterday to have a quick look sadly I hadn’t realised that there wasn’t a way to get in without some kind of VIP status.

    Sounds like you had fun though.

  5. But did you actually talk to him Keith? Or did he just sign your T-shirt? :-)

    1. hahaha :D i think he just got that autograph that he so wanted to get in Silverstone last year :D

  6. chaostheory
    7th May 2009, 13:21

    OMG. whats wrong with his cap???

    1. I believe that’s called fashion, wearing over-sized caps with a straight lid. I like mine a bit more classic.

  7. The Joke referred to above: “Kimi, you will win a race again, soon!”

  8. I’ve always sympathised with F1 drivers because they’re treated like, well, prim and proper celebrities… Hamilton could say one wrong word and get slammed by the media for it.

    It doesn’t surprise me that they would want to keep their mouths shut in case the press starts twisting their words, thinking up conspiracy theories and whatnot.

    1. just look at kimi’s comments…maybe he said just 5 words but the media twisted each of those 5 words into something totaly different. why bother talikng more?? they’ll just have more twisting and bashing to do.

  9. I sure I wouldn’t like it either but when you are in that position you make a sincere effort simply because you should.
    Notwithstanding driving the greatest racing machines on earth they get a few bob for the privilege too.
    Kimi is and always will be relatively pig ignorant whichever way you look at it.
    Doesn’t stop me from liking the bloke though :)

  10. Christian Briddon
    7th May 2009, 13:46

    Kimi is always rather miserable. Most Finnish drivers seem the same.

    The amount of cash he is paid should mean he is willing to smile a bit more and do a bit more for the sport in general.

    1. maybe he isn’t petty like some people, and money doesn’t make him smile…nor go bad, like some other drivers of the recent years

  11. I was fortunate enough to meet all the drivers in 2005 (well I say meet, it wasn’t really a stop and chat, more of a brief encounter whilst they signed my book in most cases), when I was in Montreal and Indianapolis, and Kimi was by far and away not the most abrupt of the drivers. When I saw him in the Montreal paddock he stopped and gave me a couple of minutes of his time to sign a picture I had for my sister, and was friendly and didn’t look like he wanted to be somewhere else. Then in Indianapolis when he was coming out of the circuit in his car and there were heaps of people waiting, he wound down the window as the car crawled out so he could sign peoples stuff, for as long as he possibly could. He didn’t have to do that, he could have just driven straight out. I don’t usually spend too much time hunting for autographs or owt, if I happen to be in the right place at the right time then ace, but I always appreciate the time taken by a driver to sign things or pose for photos, it doesn’t really take much of their time, not really, and it means so much to a lot of their fans, myself included. My experiences of seeing Kimi stop to do this is nothing but positive.

    Big bro Schumacher on the other hand, was incredibly reluctant to stop outside the Canadian paddock, until some little kid’s father asked him to stop, for the six of us or so that were there. I could understand it if there had been heaps of people but there were only a handful of us there, a couple of which were quite clearly die-hard Schumacher fans. It didn’t help my opinion on him at all.

    At the other end of the spectrum however – Tonio Liuzzi who was busy when I first saw him, but went out of his way to come back to stop for a bit, as well as then him and Scott Speed spending aaaages having pictures taken with the couple of people who were there. Jenson Button was also good, he stopped for a bit, and Klien and Sato, but most pleasing of all, was Ralf Schumacher (I would actually have been gutted if he had been like his brother), he stopped not just to sign my book, but for a brief chat, asked a couple of questions and stuff. Second only to Liuzzi in the time stakes, easily top of the list for me in the most memorable stakes! And he spent a fair while signing at the DTM last year also, as did Hamilton (he was good at Hungary airport actually in 2006, was really happy and friendly then when we asked him to sign our tickets – pre F1 – think he was surprised anyone had recognised him!) Oh yes and lastly – DC at Autosport show this year, he signed a picture for me, addressed it to my brother with best wishes, which I then gave to my brother for his birthday and he absolutely loved. Couple of extra seconds to make it personal – I really appreciated it, so thank you DC! :D

    It doesn’t take much, but it really does mean quite a bit.

    I digress a little from Kimi as i went on there, I apologise, I get easily carried away!

    1. With all due respect Clare,

      you say: “I don’t usually spend too much time hunting for autographs or owt, if I happen to be in the right place at the right time then ace”

      No need to be so casual….

      I’ve never been to a race, missed out on the Bahrain ones quite a few times (since i live in the area) but your input from a fan’s point of view that has been around the tracks and relatively interacted with the driver’s is a nice insight.

      On another point, i was at the Dubai Motor Show inauguration in 05 and spotted Alesi on the Merc stand, had a short chat with him in french… i swear i think i was speaking gibberish nothing came out like i meant it to be for some reason… and he seemed to be pretending to listen which didn’t help. so i packed up and left. Saw Hakinnen for same occasion in 07, passed him over cause he would say “yes” to almost every question… in both cases they didnt spend much time around, they unveiled the cars and darted out as soon as the coast was clear..

    2. Jensen Button nearly ran me over. It was his fault. The git. lol

      A friend of mine once recognised Hakkinnen at an airport went up to him and said “Are you who I think you are?” Hakkinnen smiled and replied “Yes”, my friend said excitedly “Ahhh great man it’s an such honor to meet you I’ve got all your records my wife loves your music….”, Hakkinnen stood there bemused for moment until my friend could no longer keep it up and burst out laughing. He took it well and the two had a chat for a while, he got a photo and that was that.

  12. I’ve met a few F1 drivers but it was not on the circuit but at cocktail parties that I bought my way into (how gauche!). The atmosphere is a bit different and they were pretty relaxed. In 1998 at Monaco I attended an event at the Cafe de Paris. Mika Salo was there and he was in conversation with James Allen (pit reporter at the time). Rather than ask a racing question, I asked him about his guitars. He was massively relieved to be talking about a subject other than racing and we talked about that and other things for the better part of an hour. He ignored Allen from that point on. On Sunday he drove to 4th place and I felt as if I was in the car with him.

    I met Mansell at an Champ Car race in his winning season and found him also to be a good guy.

  13. He strikes me as a funny guy.

    Much better than the cheesy bleatings of Hamilton etc..

    Why should he answer anodyne questions all the time?

  14. I think the problem is jealously here…you know he’s fastest on grid, best racer by far and you want him to meet your ever fanboyish needs…you use it as a excuse to not like him. if kimi wasn’t in f1, the entire paddock would be quite boring.

    1. good coment!! couldn’t have put it better myself

  15. I think its understandable how he acts, I bet none of you would like people invading your life 24/7. Yh, some can cope a lot better, Kimi keeps his head down, ah well everyone acts differently

  16. Interesting set of comments. Hadn’t realized so many folks had met so many of the drivers. I wonder how F1 ranks with other sports with respect to approachability of the stars.

    1. It doesn’t compare favorably with Indy Car and ALMS here in the States. Here one can buy a paddock pass and wander around, talk to drivers, team members, etc.

  17. There’s no cults of personality/celebrity in northern Europe. I’m not saying Kimi is all fun and laughter, but there might be a cultural thing to it.

  18. Good article Keith. I’ve been at a couple of LH events, and throughout them his name was literally screamed the whole time by fans, journalists and photographers. He was so charming and gracious though, giving everyone a smile and eye contact, and that is what his fans love about him. That is why I appreciate it when he says on his “time off” he likes peace and quiet and why he dodges the media and lives in Geneva. Yes, it is a privileged life, but any one of us would also find the promotional/media aspect of the job quite a strain. These guys are only human. Also, it makes you appreciate that you can have a “view” about a driver, i.e. me not liking Vettel, and loads of nasty “opinions” about Hamilton bandied about on here, but we never really KNOW the drivers. Only their teams, friends and families really know their personalities, but fans can get a better idea of their personalities when they see them in the flesh. All this media stuff IS important though to please fans and sponsors.

    1. Really, why don’t you get married to him?

    2. He has to ask first!

  19. I have always been of the opinion that the drivers don’t have any reason AT ALL to give autographs, or to suffer the photographers, or ANY of that PR stuff any more than you in your regular job.

    We watch F1 because we love seeing fast cars go by, and we might cheer for this or that driver because we like them also, but that is an entirely different thing and doesn’t give us the “right” to take their pictures and autographs.

    I can’t imagine any serious person that cares about their personalities! It’s the same thing that the 12 year old folowing Britney Spears! Seriously, Kimi’s job is NOT to please you! It’s to drive fast.

    I help a friend with a magazine and I have been to several media events covering artists and actors (Robert Downey Jr, Matt Damon, Martha Higareda…) as a photographer and I can say that is a terrible experience for them (the personalities, not the photographers), and I think that if I were in their positions I would do my utmost to AVOID any media or FAN action AT ALL!

    I say again, their job is not to please us, if you don’t like the way they wear their hats, if you don’t like them being mute, if you don’t like what they have on their ipods (remember that nonsensical section on F1Racing? don’t know if it’s still there…), then you’re watching F1 for all the wrong reasons.

    1. i agree with you…his job is to race cars not to pose for some wannabe journalist and make him happy.

    2. I missed the iPod feature in F1 Racing – when was it?

    3. I’m not a proffesional photographer, but when i tend to go to snap shots of celebrities or personalities, i feel uncomfortable. to me most of them are irrelevant, and i wonder why the photographers push and shove to take a shot. many times i end up not taking the shot and take it from one of the other photographers.

      but mostly that has to do with the fact that i hate taking pictures of people posing. i would much prefer take a shot of a dirver racing than posing at a PR event. for actors, i prefer when they are in character on a film set, singer, on stage of recording in a studio… posing for fans is useless i think, if you need a photo to prove that you saw him in the flesh what’s the point… that’s my opinion. I do my job eventually, but it’s not what i like doing in terms of photography.

  20. Oh, and another thing, an autograph? Really? It’s a signature! It doesn’t matter if it’s from The Greatest Man On Earth, it’s ink on a paper!

    Exactly the same thing with the pictures with you and the celebrity, arms around. The silliest thing.

    Oh look look! Here’s a picture of me and Britney Spears together! I’m soooo cool!

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