Kimi Raikkonen says he would never have believed, at the start of his F1 career, that he’d still be racing competitively at the age of 40.
Raikkonen says that, had someone told him when he first started in Formula 1 that he’d still be racing almost twenty years later, he wouldn’t have believed them. Now 40, Raikkonen’s current contract takes him to 41, and he hasn’t yet indicated that he’s willing to walk away from the sport.
Speaking to Yahoo Sport, Raikkonen said the aim for him back then was simply about arriving and staying for a few years after landing his first contract with Sauber back in 2001.
“I don’t think I would have believed someone if they’d told me back then I would still be racing in F1 at the age of 40.” Raikkonen said. “Obviously, at that time, it was all about simply trying to drive well and stay in F1. Nothing was guaranteed.”
“Yes, I had a contract in 2001 for three years – two plus one – but it was such early days that the aim was to try to do well and see what happens, but even when I was 27 or 28 I wouldn’t have put any money on it.”
Raikkonen’s debut year with Sauber was impressive enough to have Ferrari and McLaren fighting over him. Eventually, Ron Dennis tempted him to Woking to replace the outgoing Mika Hakkinen and, from there, Raikkonen’s career never looked back.
A brief blip happened ten years ago when, in their enthusiasm to hire Fernando Alonso, Raikkonen was paid to sit out the 2010 season by Ferrari. This he did, as well as 2011, instead choosing to go rallying in the World Rally Championship. He says that, without that brief break, he wouldn’t still be in F1: “Obviously, I left for a couple of years (in 2010 and ’11), and if I hadn’t have done that then I wouldn’t be here today because I was pretty fed up, not with the racing, but with the politics and other nonsense.”
Having spent his peak years with McLaren and Ferrari, Kimi returned to F1 in 2012 with Lotus and worked his way back to Ferrari in 2014. After winning two races with Lotus in his two years there, it took until his final year with Ferrari to win again when he defeated Lewis Hamilton in Austin at the end of 2018. With Ferrari turning to Charles Leclerc for 2019, Raikkonen found a seat at Sauber again – racing under the Alfa Romeo name.
Now a dedicated husband and family man with two children, Raikkonen says the arrival of children Robin and Rianna has changed his outlook on life: “It has changed things a lot. If I were still on my own then life would obviously be very different.”
“Kids change life a lot in many ways. Not all days are nice but that’s how life goes. In many ways, it’s much harder, but the purpose of life is a lot different.”
“Of course, the racing takes up a lot of time, and in that way, it’s a big part but it’s only racing. It’s never been the most important thing in my life.”