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?

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88 comments on Being Kimi Raikkonen

  1. Snoopy said on 8th May 2009, 9:17

    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.

  2. sei said on 8th May 2009, 11:54

    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.

  3. Ben said on 8th May 2009, 13:48

    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.

  4. Finnish Guy said on 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.

  5. Juhhi said on 8th May 2009, 19:48

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

  6. John R said on 8th May 2009, 19:54

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

  7. John R said on 9th May 2009, 12:55

    @ pSynrg: LOL!!

  8. Me said on 9th May 2009, 14:22

    I’d rather die than be plastic.

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