Lotus F1 Team Race Driver, Car No. 9
“Formula 1 is where you want to race”
The 2007 Formula 1 World Champion talks of his return to the sport with the Lotus F1 Team after two years away in the forests and stages of the World Rally Championship.
Formula 1 is something very special in my racing career, and you always want to race at the toughest level, so Formula 1 is where you want to race if you have a choice.
How quickly did the deal come about with the Lotus F1 Team?
Everything came together quite quickly. We shared a common goal and everyone was happy. This was the only way to do it and everything went pretty well from there.
What do you think of the team now you’ve completed two days testing?
I’m happy with the team, they are very nice people, very easy going and it was nice to work with them for the two days I did in the R30. I think we’ll have a lot of fun in the season ahead and hopefully we will get some good results. I want a strong enough car to challenge for good results.
When did you decide to finish rallying and to go back to Formula 1?
When I did the NASCAR races, I enjoyed the racing and I want to do more racing. I still want to do rally and if I could I’d do them both at the same time – but this isn’t possible. For sure I will do rallying again in the future. I want to do racing as I had a really good time in NASCAR racing against other people and I realised that I was missing this – that’s when I decided that if there was a good chance to return properly that I would do it.
If you’d been in rallying with sufficient time could you have been as good as Sébastien Loeb?
I don’t know! I don’t think anyone is as good as him right now! For sure I could have improved, but I don’t know how far. I’d improved last year from where I was in 2010. I went to rallying to see how well I could do and I still think that it’s one of the most difficult sports that I have ever tried. |t’s not easy! The guys at the front are very fast, but equally if you put them in a Formula 1 car they would probably have a similar story to me in rallying. I think I would need another couple of years with testing. With rallying there are so many different surfaces and it’s completely different from Formula 1.
What are your thoughts on how F1 has changed since you last competed?
In 2010 I didn’t really follow Formula 1 but I saw more races last year. It doesn’t really look different, but there is overtaking in some different places where people can just drive past by opening the rear wing and the driver in front has no chance to defend himself – so is this really overtaking? I don’t think it counts all the time. But for sure the show is better.
The tyres make a difference too, as there is a big speed difference between when the tyres are new and when the tyres are old. In the old Formula 1, you had to be so much faster than the guy in front of you to have any chance to overtake, but now with the tyres and the DRS, it’s different.
Do you have anything to prove with your return?
I think people expect things from me, but as long as I know that I’m giving 100% and I’m happy with my driving then I’m happy. If those aspects are true and it’s not enough, then it’s not enough.
How’s your motivation?
There’s always talk about my motivation, written by people who don’t know me and couldn’t have an idea on how strong my motivation is. If I didn’t feel I had the motivation, I would stop. My feeling is that I probably drove some of my best races in my last season in Formula 1 and I was very happy with my performance. I’ve never had any issues with motivation.
What are your thoughts on KERS and DRS – you didn’t have them when you tested the R30.
I’ve driven with KERS before and DRS is just a button. Once you’ve done it a few times it will become automatic.
How well do you know your new team-mate, Romain Grosjean?
I think we will have a good relationship. I met him before Christmas and I raced against him in 2009. He seems a very nice and normal guy, so I don’t see any problems there.
How is your fitness for Formula 1’s challenges after two years rallying?
For sure, the G forces are different, but you get pretty good G forces in some tarmac rallies. The steering is probably a bit heavier in rallying too. You sit in different position and you use different muscles. Rallying overall is probably not as physically tough in short bursts like Formula 1 but it’s pretty mentally tough as you spend the whole week for about 12 hours a day in a car driving. In this way rallying is much more tiring than Formula 1. The driving itself is more physical in Formula 1, but I’m looking forward to getting more sleep.
Lotus F1 Team is fighting to be back at the front, how can you help in this battle?
In my last year at Ferrari we weren’t always at the front but I’m a good racer and I want to get to the front. Lotus started well last year and we hope that the new car will be strong.
Kimi Räikkönen makes a race return to Formula 1 after two seasons contesting the FIA World Rally Championship as well as selected NASCAR outings. He has nine years’ experience in F1, with the 2007 Drivers’ Championship, 18 race wins, 62 podiums, 16 pole positions and 35 fastest laps from his 156 race starts. He entered the sport in 2002 despite having only 23 races in junior categories under his belt. Kimi finished as runner-up in the Drivers’ Championship to Michael Schumacher in 2003 and
Fernando Alonso in 2005; and won the title in 2007, in his first year driving for Ferrari.
Date of birth 17 October 1979
Place of birth Espoo, Finland
Pre 2000 – Karting, Formula Ford and Formula Renault
After an impressive karting career, including placing second in the1999 European Formula A championship, Kimi competed in the Formula Ford Euro Cup before graduating to the British Formula Renault winter series which he won, winning the Championship the following year, with seven wins from ten starts.
2001: Formula 1 debut with Sauber
Kimi scored a point in his debut race, with Sauber at the Australian Grand Prix. He completed the year having achieved four points scoring finishes and eight in the top eight.
2002 – 2006: The McLaren Years
Such was Kimi’s debut that he moved to McLaren for the 2002 season as a replacement for two-time champion, Mika Häkkinen. He finished third in his debut race with the team and came close to winning the French Grand Prix. The following year Kimi won his first race, the Malaysian Grand Prix. Despite no further wins, a strong run meant he finished second in the title race, just two points adrift of Michael Schumacher.
2004 was to prove frustrating. Kimi took McLaren’s only win that year at the Belgian Grand Prix. The following year he finished second to Fernando Alonso in the title race, with seven wins to his name.
2006 was to prove Kimi’s final year at McLaren and the momentum did not continue from the year before, with Kimi finishing fifth in the standings.
2007 – 2009: Ferrari and Drivers’ title
Kimi’s debut for the prancing horse was a fairytale, with pole position, fastest lap and he became the first driver since Nigel Mansell in 1989 to win on his Ferrari debut. He followed that with a further five wins, stealing the title from under the noses of the battling McLaren duo of Alonso and Lewis Hamilton at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix. The following two seasons were more low-key, finishing third in the standings in 2008, and sixth the following season.
2010 – 2011: Rallying and NASCAR
The FIA World Rally Championship was the destination for Kimi with the Citroën Junior Team in 2010, with a best finish of fifth in the Rally of Turkey. The following year he drove for ICE 1 Racing, with two sixth places in Jordan and Germany. He combined his rallying with two NASCAR outings.