Being Kimi Raikkonen

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?

Advert | Go Ad-free

88 comments on Being Kimi Raikkonen

  1. kurtosis said on 7th May 2009, 15:45

    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.

    • 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.

  2. Sebastian said on 7th May 2009, 15:50

    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.

  3. S Hughes said on 7th May 2009, 15:55

    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.

  4. 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.

    • kimi said on 7th May 2009, 16:26

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

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

    • Ronman said on 8th May 2009, 8:14

      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.

  5. 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!

  6. kurtosis said on 7th May 2009, 16:43

    We watch F1 because we love seeing fast cars go by …

    @Haplo,

    You make a good point, but the reality is that a lot of F1 fans watch or follow F1 because they are fans of one particular driver, not because they like to see fast cars go by. And some of the F1 drivers only manage to get paid so much because of the ability of the Formula 1 infrastructure to monetize these fans. The infrastructure includes some degree of interaction with the media. So one can draw a straight line from a driver’s interaction with fans and the media to a percentage of his salary.

    You have to also remember that these are the fans who took the trouble to purchase real tickets and fly down to the track – thus contributing to the F1 franchise. These aren’t the fans who just watch webstreams and participate in live blogs. They are much more involved than the average fan, so it pays off to coddle them.

    • Yes, I see all of that as a reality (more so, I think their paychecks are determined by how good they drive and how good their manager is more than how many fans they have), but that doesn’t mean it has any sense.

      I, for one, am a hardcore fan, follow the stats and all that, but couldn’t care less for the personal lives of the pilots. If Schumacher married Frentzen’s girl is nobody’s business. If Hamilton’s daddy gave Denis the bad eye doesn’t matter at all. If Jenson is ugly as hell and Massa is going bald, who cares!

      You really have to be a very poor fan to care for all that, do you really imagine any serious fan running like a little girl after Lewis asking for a picture?

      They drive F1 cars. Fast.

      They are not performers in the sense that, for instance, a band is. And even so, your taste for a kind of music can be completely detached from wether you like the guys that play.

      You buy hats and jerseys you say? To show your “support” of the Scuderia? That’s laughable! You buy them because you like them, you like being associated with a brand and you like everybody to know you watch F1. Period! If anyone thinks that buying merchandise gives them the right to ask for pictures, autographs and interviews that go about the drivers lifes… well, that’s just plain wrong.

      They are, after all, people. People that happens to drive F1 cars, but people, and that doesn’t make them any special to me. I can, of course, go and buy the Mp4/4 die cast model that Senna drove and show it off, I can wear my red hat at the BBC, and my Williams watch on a night out. But to go and act like a Back Street Boy fan?

      Seriously guys.

    • kimi said on 7th May 2009, 19:57

      so what? if Kimi has a big salary (the biggest in F1, as people claim) that means he has more than enough contact with fans. so maybe Hamilton and other should have more contact to get more money.

      if he doesn’t have enogh contact, they’ll just cut his paycheck and that is it. i doubt that they pay him to sign photos, he’s there and paid so much, to win races. winning races brings more money than a signed photo (to Ferrari). i’m Kimi’s fan and i don’t have his autograph and even if he passed me right by and i wouldn’t get it i would still be his fan, because of the way he is. a fan is a fan, and will be a fan, no matter what Kimi dose off track, no matter how much he talks to the media, no matter how much signing he does. He talks and and does PR on track!!!

      and for the Kimi bashing author of this article, here’s a photo that’ll put you in overdrive again

      http://www.manipef1images.com/large/resp2009th06.jpg

    • pSynrg said on 7th May 2009, 22:09

      It seems the real point is being missed here. As with all ‘entertainers’ – and sports people are basically just that. The vast majority of their income comes from sponsors. Indeed it is the sponsors that effectively put the entire show on the road.
      The sponsors ONLY have an interest feeding F1 when it pays back to them, either directly or indirectly.
      It is not just an F1 drivers job to drive. It is also their job to give the sponsors value for money in their investment.
      There are parts of my job that I really enjoy and there are parts that are tedious and boring but I apply myself equally regardless.
      I expect any dedicated professional to do the same and a driver has a duty to their fans who are fundamentally the people that monetise F1 because it is to them the whom the sponsors wish to appeal.

    • S Hughes said on 8th May 2009, 10:13

      Haplo, everyone follows F1 for their own reasons and in their own way. Why should it bother you how people manifest as fans as long as people are following the sport enthusiastically?

  7. Very interesting post, Keith!

    In Bahrein, asking Brazilian journalists, Rubens said that he used to be boring at interviews because he knows that there’s a large and global audience hearing what he is saying. He never try to elaborate answers because he fears to be misunderstood by this large and policulture audience. Rubens even used Kimi as an example of how to deal whit the press:

    “…You turn the Kimi mood on and go ahead…”

  8. F1Fan said on 7th May 2009, 17:59

    The most likeable F1 driver I have met is Jarno Trulli.

  9. GP1 said on 7th May 2009, 18:25

    Kimi has been long enough in F1 that he knows what´s important or not. He´s job is to drive his red car as fast as possible. After that he is just as normal person in unnormal life. Have you noticed latest comments on L Hamilton, day by day he sounds more like Kimi – he´s learning slowly. Maybe the point is, what kind of questions journalists are asking – if you ask stupid question you will get stupid answer

  10. Damon said on 7th May 2009, 18:27

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

    So what?!
    They pay the money – get the product.
    Kimi didn’t ask them to buy anything. And he doesn’t make those hats, he prolly even feels embarrassed seeing some geeky merchandise with his name, face and whatnot all over it.
    Wouldn’t you?

    Does buying some stupid T-shirt with someone’s face inprinted on it suddenly give you the right to demand anything from the man on the picture???
    That’s sick.

    Kimi is just a person who does what he loves.
    If someone feels entertained by whatching him do it – then he should be grateful to Kimi, not the other way around.

    • John H said on 7th May 2009, 18:46

      His salary probably makes people feel that way.

      Listen, they sign the contract, they earn the money, they have a dream job, so they have to do the PR stuff. If Kimi was just bothered about just ‘racing’ then F1 really isn’t the series for him. There are plenty of other championships that offer competitive racing for less money and attention.

      I’m an architect, but my job isn’t just designing buildings (as much as I’d like it to be). I think I do that about 5% of the time in fact!

    • K said on 8th May 2009, 2:37

      lol good post good point but surely it depends on the individual more, I mean some people don’t really appreciate fans they just do what they do as you say but others do have that appreciation, the fact that someone respects and enjoys the thing that you love doing and the way you do it and that they are willing to express that to you and support you is pretty cool.

    • K said on 8th May 2009, 2:43

      Oh my post was in response to Damon’s, I agree that when people start expecting things from Kimi (or any genuine celebrity as opposed to someone who’s just famous for being famous) then it can quickly become unreasonable. Yes he signed a contract to do certain things but the fact that he he has a dream job and earns a lot of money doesn’t entitle everyone to a piece of him.

  11. Juhhi said on 7th May 2009, 19:26

    Kimi is not pretending on interviews something he´s not. He shows it to people that he is not having fun with press and journalists. Is it wrong? Sometimes you really can see how hard i.e Lewis Hamilton has beacause he has to live with his role with media. He must allways smile no matter how fu”ked up he is…Kimi is TOTALLY different person what he gives out on media. There´s one video which I think Kimi really is what he is…this is from finnish automobile program…I´m finnish so for me this is so much funnier cause understand all jokes and so on, but all you can see that he´s smiling all the time…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QT6LSd2fvkk

  12. Hi Keith,
    Love your web site. Checking for updates at least twice a day.

    Hi to all crowd!
    You are a great passionate bunch! Very interesting thread. I enjoy reading your comments.

    I live in Canada, consider myself a Ferrari fan. Attended only one race – 1993 South African GP (only five cars finished the race, Prost won by more than a minute from Senna DUHHH…)

    I do collect autographed photos and car models. I either buy from few trusted or verified sources or rely on ‘by mail’ method. I find it real fun, there is one trick here. There is not much value in getting ‘anything’ signed, piece of paper, page from program, cap, etc. The real fun is when you find a great racing photo, or a candid driver’s photo (not a promo-crap) and get is signed; it creates one of a kind item and imho makes a special connection, especially if there is a personal message or note.

    This may not apply to current drivers, they are incredibly busy with their testing/racing/PR duties/often-twisted-personal-lives and all this under unscrupulous microscope of reporters of all sorts, cameras, TVs, over-enthusiastic fans; I don’t envy them at all. They live crazy lives indeed and truly deserve every bit of privacy they can get.

    On the other side, getting in touch with retired drivers, especially from 60s or 70s is very interesting. The racing scene was completely different then. Having your letter read and photos signed and dedicated by Gurney, Brooks, Moss, Surtees, Brabham, Amon and others means a lot. And I believe/know that it means a lot to them as well. Whatever they do now, I think they are quite happy to know that after 30 – 40 years fans still remember them, know and appreciate F1 history.

    I wrote to and received answers from over 30 drivers from 50s to 80s (mostly Ferrari), I send only the best photos, mostly 20 x 30 cm highest quality. And I see my collection as a tribute to Ferrari team, my expression of respect to their dedication and passion.

    Check out my collection: http://picasaweb.google.com/Igor.Entin2 (start with the first album).

    Finally, well, we all want to see drivers being articulate extroverts, opinionated, with a good English vocabulary and a sense of humour. Remember, most of them in early 20s, they don’t have high education, they started driving karts just out of their diapers :-). They aren’t public speakers (remember that Willi Weber had Schumi trained in public speaking!!!) and English is a second language for most of them. They drive fast, they do their job bloody well, overtaking is pretty much solved and we are having a good show once again. Let’s enjoy it.
    Best Regards to all
    Igor

  13. Hi Keith,
    Love your web site. Checking for updates at least twice a day.

    Hi to all crowd!
    You are a great passionate bunch! Very interesting thread. I enjoy reading your comments.

    I live in Canada, consider myself a Ferrari fan. Attended only one race – 1993 South African GP (only five cars finished the race, Prost won by more than a minute from Senna DUHHH…)

    I do collect autographed photos and car models. I either buy from few trusted or verified sources or rely on ‘by mail’ method. I find it real fun, there is one trick here. There is not much value in getting ‘anything’ signed, piece of paper, page from program, cap, etc. The real fun is when you find a great racing photo, or a candid driver’s photo (not a promo-crap) and get is signed; it creates one of a kind item and imho makes a special connection, especially if there is a personal message or note.

    This may not apply to current drivers, they are incredibly busy with their testing/racing/PR duties/often-twisted-personal-lives and all this under unscrupulous microscope of reporters of all sorts, cameras, TVs, over-enthusiastic fans; I don’t envy them at all. They live crazy lives indeed and truly deserve every bit of privacy they can get.

    On the other side, getting in touch with retired drivers, especially from 60s or 70s is very interesting. The racing scene was completely different then. Having your letter read and photos signed and dedicated by Gurney, Brooks, Moss, Surtees, Brabham, Amon and others means a lot. And I believe/know that it means a lot to them as well. Whatever they do now, I think they are quite happy to know that after 30 – 40 years fans still remember them, know and appreciate F1 history.

    I wrote to and received answers from over 30 drivers from 50s to 80s (mostly Ferrari), I send only the best photos, mostly 20 x 30 cm highest quality. And I see my collection as a tribute to Ferrari team, my expression of respect to their dedication and passion.

    Check out my collection: (start with the first album).

    Finally, well, we all want to see drivers being articulate extroverts, opinionated, with a good English vocabulary and a sense of humour. Remember, most of them in early 20s, they don’t have high education, they started driving karts just out of their diapers :-). They aren’t public speakers (remember that Willi Weber had Schumi trained in public speaking!!!) and English is a second language for most of them. They drive fast, they do their job bloody well, overtaking is pretty much solved and we are having a good show once again. Let’s enjoy it.
    Best Regards to all
    Igor

  14. Hi Keith,
    Love your web site. Checking for updates at least twice a day.

    Hi to all crowd!
    You are a great passionate bunch! Very interesting thread. I enjoy reading your comments.

    I live in Canada, consider myself a Ferrari fan. Attended only one race – 1993 South African GP (only five cars finished the race, Prost won by more than a minute from Senna DUHHH…)

    I do collect autographed photos and car models. I either buy from few trusted or verified sources or rely on ‘by mail’ method. I find it real fun, there is one trick here. There is not much value in getting ‘anything’ signed, piece of paper, page from program, cap, etc. The real fun is when you find a great racing photo, or a candid driver’s photo (not a promo-crap) and get is signed; it creates one of a kind item and imho makes a special connection, especially if there is a personal message or note.

    This may not apply to current drivers, they are incredibly busy with their testing/racing/PR duties/often-twisted-personal-lives and all this under unscrupulous microscope of reporters of all sorts, cameras, TVs, over-enthusiastic fans; I don’t envy them at all. They live crazy lives indeed and truly deserve every bit of privacy they can get.

    On the other side, getting in touch with retired drivers, especially from 60s or 70s is very interesting. The racing scene was completely different then. Having your letter read and photos signed and dedicated by Gurney, Brooks, Moss, Surtees, Brabham, Amon and others means a lot. And I believe/know that it means a lot to them as well. Whatever they do now, I think they are quite happy to know that after 30 – 40 years fans still remember them, know and appreciate F1 history.

    I wrote to and received answers from over 30 drivers from 50s to 80s (mostly Ferrari), I send only the best photos, mostly 20 x 30 cm highest quality. And I see my collection as a tribute to Ferrari team, my expression of respect to their dedication and passion.

    Check out my collection: (start with the first album).

    Finally, well, we all want to see drivers being articulate extroverts, opinionated, with a good English vocabulary and a sense of humour. Remember, most of them in early 20s, they don’t have high education, they started driving karts just out of their diapers :-). They aren’t public speakers (remember that Willi Weber had Schumi trained in public speaking!!!) and English is a second language for most of them. They drive fast, they do their job bloody well, overtaking is pretty much solved and we are having a good show once again. Let’s enjoy it.
    Best Regards to all
    Igor

  15. Damon said on 7th May 2009, 20:16

    @ Juhhi
    Nice video.

    But this video shows Kimi at his best:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wx9D1mueU6Y
    :)))

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.