[F1 2018 NEWS FEATURE] KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN: TWILIGHT YEARS

Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen is in the twilight of his career. The 38-year-old is one of the sport’s greatest-ever drivers, the Finn sat at number 22 on Autosport magazine’s recent top-40 list, as one of the most naturally gifted and ferocious combatants to ever grace a grid.

Since his 2001 F1 debut, Räikkönen has taken 17 pole positions, 20 wins, and 45 fastest laps – that particular stat, putting the Iceman second on the all-time list behind Michael Schumacher.

Räikkönen’s 2007 F1 World Championship was sealed on the back of six wins – with another six podiums and a very public fallout at rival team McLaren enabling him to swoop in and seal the crown at the final round in Brazil.

But three victories in the next two years was little reward for the Prancing Horse – and former chairman Luca di Montezemolo jettisoned Räikkönen, with one year left on his contract, paying him to sit on the sidelines.

The Finn took short jaunts in the World Rally Championship and NASCAR, before a return to F1 and Lotus in 2012, when he helped the team to punch above its weight – scoring two wins, his 20th and last in Australia 2013.

Räikkönen then returned to Ferrari to replace an outgoing Fernando Alonso, where he’s since been enlisted to support his friend Sebastian Vettel.

But while Vettel took three wins from the first six races last year, with more victories in Hungary and Brazil – Räikkönen’s best was seven podiums with a pair of second places that he took Monaco and Hungary.

Räikkönen was also outqualified by Vettel 15-4… and almost three tenths down when comparable – but was demotivated by Monaco, where he set pole for the first time since 2008, but didn’t get the optimal strategy to win. Instead playing rear gunner to the German.

For the Finn, it’s all part and parcel of a long career.

SOUNDBITE (English) KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN,
2007 F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
"I'm older, obviously, a bit more experienced. For sure it changes life, I hardly know car racing before, and nobody really much knew me, so I could live a very normal life. And it changes a lot - once you come to F1 but you get used to everything. But, it’s gone very fast.”

Räikkönen is super popular with fans for his devil-may-care attitude, but this year is an important one – if for nothing else, his legacy as a potential final year racing in F1.