The Iceman cometh, and then goeth

PARIS • Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen is looking forward to life outside Formula One after he announced on Wednesday that he will retire from the sport at the end of the season, 20 years after making his debut.

The 41-year-old Finnish 'Iceman' is currently racing for Alfa Romeo, winning just two points this year, and his departure means compatriot Valtteri Bottas could take his seat if he leaves Mercedes.

Raikkonen is the oldest driver on the starting grid and holds the all-time record for most race starts, with 341 so far from 344 grands prix attended.

He won the world championship in 2007 while driving for Ferrari, pipping then-McLaren pair Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton to the title by a single point.

"This is it. This will be my last season in Formula One," he said in a statement on Instagram.

"This is a decision I did during last winter. It was not an easy decision but after this season it is time for new things.

"Formula One might come to an end for me but there is a lot more in life that I want to experience and enjoy.

"I want to thank my family, all my teams, everyone involved in my racing career and especially all of you great fans that have been rooting for me all this time."

Raikkonen has 21 grand prix wins, as well as 18 pole positions and 103 podium finishes.

A blunt fan favourite whose love of racing is matched by his dislike of media duties and the corporate side of the sport, he made his F1 debut in 2001 with Sauber, the team who now race as Alfa Romeo.

He then moved to McLaren in 2002, enjoying success during a five-year spell, winning nine races, seven of which came in 2005 when he finished second in the drivers' standings behind Alonso.

He won for the first time in Malaysia in 2003 and was dubbed 'Iceman' by team boss Ron Dennis for his calmness under pressure. He now has the word tattooed on his forearm.

Raikkonen then joined Ferrari in 2007 as replacement for seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher and capped his debut season with a dramatic world championship triumph. His title success remains the last championship for a Ferrari driver.

He left the sport for two years in 2010 and 2011 and raced in Nascar and the world rally championship. But he returned with Lotus in 2012 before rejoining Ferrari two years later.

His last race win came at the 2018 United States Grand Prix for the Scuderia before he left for Alfa Romeo at the end of that season.

"Kimi is an incredible part of our sport, a personal friend and a true champion," said former Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali, who now runs F1 as its chief executive.

"I had the privilege of working with him at Ferrari and know the fantastic person he is. We will all miss him and his unique style and wish him and his family the best for the future."

Media reports have linked Bottas with a move to replace him, which would free up a seat alongside Hamilton at Mercedes for promising Williams driver George Russell.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

  • SOME KIMI CLASSICS

  • Q The helmet has a special meaning for many drivers. How important it is to you?

    A It protects my head.

    Q Where could the car be improved?

    A Around the lap.

    Q You first started a Formula One race at 21, what would you say to that 21-year-old now?

    A Nothing. I wouldn't talk to him.

    Q Name three Monza corners?

    A One, two and three.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2021, with the headline 'The Iceman cometh, and then goeth'. Subscribe