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. Damon said on 7th May 2009, 20:17

    Ahahahaaha, this is even better:

    Go Kimi!!

  2. Striay said on 7th May 2009, 20:18

    I admire Kimi a lot. I love the way he is so cool and calm for everything, and then is a lot of fun outside f1 and away from the cameras.
    He is a legend!!!

    I have always wanted to meet him before he retires so lets hope he stays another year in F1 if not my chances of meeting him are over, as he will probably never appear in a race again like other F1 drivers do after they retire.

  3. 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, Kimi, Jenson, Felipe, Sebastian and other folks 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

  4. sean said on 7th May 2009, 21:16

    I was in the back of the pits in 2006 and got schumacher to sign my cap,had to chase him a bit and say please but he was very pleasant but on race weekend they are very busy.Got Kimi’s, Massa’s,Heidfield’s,Coulthards,and Ross Brawns [my god he is huge Im over 6 foot he must 6-8].They were all very approachable and polite and happy to take photos this was this was just before free practice on friday morning.I always said please and thankyou never had a problem.I must say the thing that did strike me though was my god they are all so tiny you could put massa and heidfield to sleep in a crib.

  5. theRoswellite said on 7th May 2009, 22:25

    Keith…nice twist on the usual mid-race concerns.

    Who can really imagine what life must be like for the “privacy challenged” celebs. I’ve always enjoyed Kimi’s (I use the familiar term here…though we’ve never been formerly introduced)take on most things. He usually seems quite analytical, if you can get past his delivery. (I can’t really be critical of his communication skills, as his English is far superior to my Finnish.)

    Keith, I would be interested to know if you command enough press-cred to get a little one-on-one time with any of the drivers? Your interview would be very interesting…questions we might never see addressed in the normal media. Good luck in this area, and for your regular readers benefit, hope you keep sticking your foot in the door.

    (Oh, and the hat deal………..if you dislike the look, it being a great distance from “traditional” style…that is the idea behind any “new style”….to move away from the accepted. Your attitude toward his cap probably says as much about you as it does about him.)

  6. Hey Keith! Great photos you’ve taken, well done. I was there yesterday too :) I’ve written a ‘diary’ of my day and the experience of getting to hand him CD of fan videos I’ve made and he also signed my Kimi calendar. Please do drop by and read if you’ve got 5 mins to spare! :)

    Kimi was awesome. I don’t expect everyone to understand what we Kimi fans mean by that, but he did more than even I expected yesterday. He was really happy, relaxed and mellow. He naturally is anyway. Another photographer was speaking about him and I heard him say he’s such a great guy when the cronies around him aren’t there. Says it all.

    And I strongly disagree with that cliche of just because someone’s paid millions they have to be obliged to act differently. He doesn’t race because of the money. Money has nothing to do with his interest and love for racing. Yes, I do wish he could have spent longer with the fans as I felt bad for those who didn’t get an autograph, but he’s a humble person. Wha may seem arrogant is just a famous person who’d rather not be famous. He didn’t come out the shop with a big grin and start waving and saying hi to the fans because he’s just shy and modest. It’s so simple. Plus the fact that the maority of Finns are reserved in their emotions, even with their families lol A girl I met yesterday was telling me her Finnish friend is just like that too.

    Give Kimi a break :) anyways, we’re looking forward to the amazing and most exciting Spain GP right? (hehe) woot!

  7. Melanie said on 7th May 2009, 22:35

    I think Kimi is often just misunderstood as a person. I actually think Kimi and Vettel have very much the same personalities, which is also why they are good friends. But Kimi is just more shy, reserved or introverted then Vettel. People often think that Kimi has an attitude but he is obviously just a bit shy especially in front of all of the crowds. He is very straight forward and honest which people sometimes sees as a bit blunt, or not politically correct. But you sometimes just have to look a bit deeper at his answers, he does have a very scarcastically sharp wit which he sometimes displays, which is actually very humorous at times.

    Some people like him some people dont, but for me he is properly one the last real character on the grid. He is not really PR broken, and he is one of the few persons I have seen who is really comfortable with just being himself.

  8. Rob R. said on 8th May 2009, 0:40

    In addition to the repetitiveness of the questions, I’ve always imagined it would be horrible to know that an encounter with slimy suck-up Peter Windsor is your guaranteed “reward” for qualifying on pole or winning a race….

    Vettel has only experienced that a handful of times.

    Raikkonen is a real character, not afraid to be himself. Remember, he was such a standout talent that he got fast-tracked into F1 after winning only 15 or so single seater races.

    Contrast that with Hamilton, who had all the years support of McLaren, has the hallowed “work ethic” that people criticise Raikkonen for lacking, and still only managed to beat Nelson Piquet Jr. of all people, to the GP2 title by a handful of points.

    • pSynrg said on 8th May 2009, 8:24

      Lol, Rob R. – A simplistic dig there. Maybe you could follow it with ‘and then proceeded to almost dominate his WDC team mate in his rookie F1 season.’?
      Unfortunately I’ve lost count of how many times LH has overtaken KR in the last 2 and a bit seasons. Oh and there was something else he took from KR also but it… Oh hang on, I remember, it was something called the WDC.

    • S Hughes said on 8th May 2009, 10:57

      RobR, Hamilton was champion in every feeder category to F1 – why are you rubbishing such obvious talent of the world champion? Why do you have to lay into one driver while praising another?

    • Rob R. said on 8th May 2009, 12:39

      Well, it’s easy to dominate your team mate when the team boss openly admits he’s working against said team mate and in favour of you.

  9. Nice piece Keith. My press pass was lost in the post but that didn’t stop F1 Badger’s editor from getting near the charismatic driver: Ferrari Officially Open London Store. Kimi runs off

  10. I met Kimi in 2006 at a Tag heuer event in Kuala Lumpur. We were doing a F1 simulator event for them adn had Kimi trying the simulator. Later we escorted him on a walkabout to a hotel next door for a press briefing. He was supposed to come at 8pm but by 6pm the whole area was packed. Upon arrival, I almost got squashed by people jostling to get to him. The girls were screaming _ “Kimi I love you!” and “Marry me!” I didn’t get it.

    Anyway, Kimi was his cold self. Didn’t talk much, no smile, no reaction. Only when he won the world championship did I see him smile more. But that’s Kimi. Contrast that to Lewis. He will always oblige. I know because every year I spend time with him during the Sepang race. And I understand what these people go through with all the fans and press and being constantly in the spotlight. Even being a nobody around Lewis is enough attention. Sometimes I get fedup of the never ending attention, you can’t even do the smallest thing in peace. You can’t even walk 2 steps without being stopped for autographs and a picture. It’s tiring.

    At the same time you can’t be rude because the smallest error you make will be amplified 1000 times and reported with a vicious headline around the world. So Lewis has to be restrained which unfortunately makes him a non-character in F1. One thing I like about Kimi though, he just behaves as himself, to hell with what people think. Good to see he’s trying to balance it though.

  11. Matt said on 8th May 2009, 3:55

    I work with a lady who’s daughter and son-in-law were at a function before the Australian GP a few years ago, and the daughter left the phone behind at the bar. Mark Webber found it, saw that the last number called was “Mum” and rang, asking what the owner looked like and he would find them to return it. Which he did, and the mum had no idea who he was until after watching the race on TV and seeing him get 5th for Minardi lol

    I think the whole pressure around the “circus” doesn’t help in making them want to open up and be friendly. Especially with the scrutiny that is placed on every word you say, and moreso when English isn’t your first language. Remember how Hakkinen answered the post race questions? Compare that to the sense of humour he actually showed on Top Gear

  12. HKat said on 8th May 2009, 4:29

    Interesting discussion! But I have to disagree with the idea that all fans only watch F1 to see fast cars going by. Sure that’s part of it, but if that was the only reason to like a certain driver, everybody would have to be a Schumacher fan (which clearly isn’t the case). Does that mean people like myself, who value ability as much as personality in a driver, are somehow less worthy as fans?

    I’ve watched F1 for almost 15 years now, and never in all this time did I have a favorite driver simply because he was the fastest. And while no driver can be expected to be considerate to his fans all the time, once you’ve met several of them on more than one occasion it’s usually not too hard to see a pattern of who is a nice guy, like David Coulthard for example, and who doesn’t give a damn, like Schumacher (and I’ve never even been a fan of David, but I’ve just never seen that guy being anything but friendly and patient with fans).

    If you’re only in it for the cars and racing, great, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting to know more about the drivers beyond what we see on the track. Being interested in a driver doesn’t automatically equate to wanting to stalk, marry or scream at him.

  13. Chaz said on 8th May 2009, 6:50


  14. John R said on 8th May 2009, 7:32

    HKat, try telling that to S Hughes who probably wishes to stalk and then marry LH…. :-)

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.