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”

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. Agreed…

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

  6. as a finnish person myself i really understand Kimi. Thats the way how finnish people are, specially men. Kimi is not arrogant he is just shy and like most finnish people he wants keep his own pace. We do not show emotions in public and we dont want talk about ourselves in public either. PRIVACY is main word for finnish people, that still dont mean that we are not firndly, we just need our time before we let people coming too close.

    When I was in Australian Gran Prix i could not stop smiling when i saw Kimi avoiding press in paddock. It was really funny :) Media was everywhere but Kimi walked out from paddock with his friends, all having same caps and jeans and media did not regonize him untill it was too late….that was hilarious.

  7. I like kimi because he doesn’t pretend to be something else in front of the media, he doesn’t have to be and probably couldn’t care less about what people think. Personally I find him entertaining, especially when you read about the little things he does to stick it to the fia and the other amusing things he does off the track too. Think gorilla suits, donuts, ice creams and find the kimi.

  8. I think the other issue that it is easy to forget most of these guys are effectively kids in their late teens and early 20’s.

    Covering the World Series by Renault last year you’d see the drivers being mobbed from every corner but away from the race weekends they were all typical teenagers/twentysomethings.

    At the same time by the time you’re in F1 you are a global brand and brand ambassador who a lot of people pay a lot of money to support. If fans pick the right moment (i.e. not immediately after a last lap retirement from a winning position), I think it is not unreasonable to ask for an autograph/photo from a driver and expect a courteous response.

    In contrast to some of the comments here, one of the friendliest drivers I’ve always encountered was Michael Schumacher. He doesn’t like to sign stuff that could be ebayed but I asked him to sign a photo I’d had taken with him 8 years previously and he stopped for a chat. Mika Hakkinen was the same and utterly hilarious in conversation.

    I’ve always liked to collect autographs and still do – last week I was commentating at the A1GP meeting and after interviewing Alan Jones promptly asked him to sign my 1980 Autocourse.

  9. Finnish Guy
    8th May 2009, 19:38

    Well…as a Finn I can tell you that pretty much everyone in Finland is like Kimi. We don’t talk much, laugh much or smile much. It’s a cultural thing. We are beautiful and suicidal!

    Greetings from Finland.

  10. Finnish guy said that, and it´s all true!!! =)…and for sure we spend alcohol too much…

  11. Well said Finnisg Guy, it’s better to be beautiful and suicidal than plastic looking and fake!!

    1. It’s better to be suicidal? Be my guest…

  12. @ pSynrg: LOL!!

  13. I’d rather die than be plastic.

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