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Kimi Raikkonen

How will Raikkonen's F1 career be remembered?

The 2007 Formula 1 World Champion will retire from the sport at the end of the year. RacingNews365.com's journalists have their say on how Kimi Raikkonen will be remembered.

Column
To news overview © Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen announced on Wednesday that he will retire from Formula 1 at the end of the season, bringing his lengthy career to a close.

The 2007 F1 World Champion has won 21 races and is one of only five drivers to have been on the podium more than 100 times.

He remains Ferrari's most recent World Champion and is the most experienced driver the sport has seen. Here are Nigel Chiu's, Thomas Maher's, Mike Seymour's and Adriano Boin's takes on Raikkonen's career.

Nigel Chiu: His McLaren days were extraordinary

Don't let the last 10 years of Raikkonen's F1 career make you think he was an average driver. He was anything but and will go down as one of the best to get behind the wheel of an F1 car in the modern era.

The 2005 Japanese GP still goes down as the best race of the century for me, and arguably Raikkonen's best performance, as he went from 18th to first with an incredible drive.

Raikkonen had only done 23 races by the time he made his F1 debut in 2001. This would be unheard of nowadays and that's how special he was.

Despite being up against Michael Schumacher, who was on his way to becoming a seven-time World Champion, and the highly-rated Fernando Alonso, Raikkonen was probably the fastest driver on the grid from 2003 to 2005.

Raikkonen thoroughly deserved to become a World Champion and he's always been one of the cleanest drivers on the grid.

At 41-years-old, his best days are long gone and he hasn't been the same since he won the F1 title. But he's shown glimpses over the years and has still been a match for Alfa Romeo teammate Antonio Giovinazzi in the last three seasons, despite his age.

Thomas Maher: An incredible driver, but perhaps needed more discipline

I've been an unashamed Raikkonen fan ever since he entered the sport in 2001 and, almost immediately, did enough to convince McLaren that he was the man to replace double World Champion Mika Hakkinen.

It's been two decades of Kimi since then and, despite an excellent career, I'll always be of the opinion that it could have, and should have, been more.

The Raikkonen/McLaren/Michelin combination was a juggernaut during their time together, with a young and hungry Finn a constant thorn in the side of the dominant Ferrari/Michael Schumacher act. Despite having only one win in 2003, Raikkonen missed out on his first title by just two points. Had his engine not let go while leading at the Nurburgring, or had he not been taken out at the first corner at Hockenheim, he'd have clinched that one.

2005 was similar. After a dodgy year in 2004 with the MP4-19 not finding pace until the latter half of the season, McLaren's MP4-20 was ferociously good. Raikkonen was unstoppable in that car but it was the Mercedes engine, ironically from the perspective of 2021, that was the weakness. Engine penalties and failures ruined his title tilt, but Raikkonen's highs that year were higher than what eventual World Champion Fernando Alonso managed. That's not to say Alonso was undeserving, but Raikkonen simply lost too many good results due to circumstances outside of his control.

But the free-spirited Raikkonen's fire seemed to diminish a little in 2007, ironically as he joined Ferrari. Whatever it was about Ron Dennis' management style, he appeared to be able to get the best out of him, even if Raikkonen did hate it. While Raikkonen was still excellent in 2007, his driving seemed a little bit more reserved, perhaps due to Raikkonen adjusting to Bridgestone tyres after years on Michelins.

For whatever reason, Raikkonen never really seemed to hit the same highs ever again after winning the title in 2007. It seemed as though, once he'd reached his goal, he mentally was never able to go past 95% of his ability or speed again. Still excellent, still fast, but the 'wow' factor that was so consistently there early in his career only emerged on a few more occasions.

Despite several more years with Ferrari in the second half of his career, Raikkonen's most impressive recent years were when he wasn't with a front-running team. Driving for Lotus in 2012 and 2013, Raikkonen consistently picked up excellent podiums and even two wins – Team Enstone's most recent until just a few weeks ago in Hungary. His first year with Alfa Romeo also showed there was life in the old dog, but the team's slump through 2020 seems to have finally convinced Raikkonen that it's time for him to go.

There have been indications this year that Raikkonen's famed racecraft and wheel-to-wheel abilities are starting to fade, whether that be through age, weariness or his own inevitable mental slowdown as he closes in on his final races.

I'll miss Raikkonen a lot. Don't judge Kimi on the somewhat lethargic efforts of today, but remember what he was capable of when he went toe-to-toe with the might of Ferrari almost 20 years ago. Had he been able to keep that fire burning with the same intensity throughout the entirety of his career, Raikkonen could have been one of Formula 1's all-time greatest statistics.

			© Ferrari
	© Ferrari

Mike Seymour: Inspiring fans for more than 20 years

Raikkonen unquestionably had the talent to become a multiple F1 World Champion, his raw speed too often hampered by misfortune and unreliability, but no one can take the 2007 crown away from him as he heads into retirement.

Raikkonen's days at McLaren were spectacular, while his first spell at Ferrari saw him deservedly claim the sport's ultimate prize. It was far too soon for him to 'retire' at the end of the 2009 season, and it felt inevitable that he would be tempted back.

After two years out of the sport, Raikkonen's return for 2012 created a huge buzz of excitement. Sure, there was no place at Ferrari, McLaren or Red Bull – the sport's new leading force – but the Lotus he stepped into was a very solid contender. As the early races ticked by, both Raikkonen and the team grew in confidence. Come the end of the season, they were a winning partnership.

When Raikkonen and Lotus kicked off the following campaign with victory in a dramatic Australian Grand Prix, there were hopes that another title challenge could be on the cards. After five rounds, and three straight runner-up finishes, Raikkonen sat just four points behind Sebastian Vettel, who would go on to become that year's World Champion. Unfortunately, his relationship with Lotus turned sour, with the team owing him money, and he made an early exit before rejoining Ferrari.

Nonetheless, these two seasons gave a new wave of F1 fans the opportunity to witness Raikkonen's talent while it was still burning brightly. He regularly mixed it with the front-runners, albeit not to the extent of his McLaren and Ferrari days, and provided entertainment with some classic one-liners over the radio. It also prompted this younger generation of fans to go back in the archives and discover Raikkonen's first chapters in F1, adding to their wonderment. You only need to take a look at F1's official YouTube channel to see the number of views Raikkonen-related content regularly achieves.

Although Raikkonen's career went downhill from 2014, with a minor resurgence in 2018 when he finished third in the standings, and took his final F1 win in the United States, his fanbase and status has continued to grow. On track, there has not been much to celebrate, but off track, we have seen some wonderful moments and more of an insight into his personality, such as when he turned a young fan's tears into smiles at the Spanish Grand Prix in 2017.

Whether it was 'peak Kimi' at McLaren and Ferrari, his impressive return with Lotus or the heartwarming moments of recent times, we have plenty to thank Raikkonen for as he prepares to retire and start the next phase of his life.

Adriano Boin: A one of a kind personality that all F1 fans got behind

Nicknamed 'The Iceman' given his no-nonsense approach and dislike for most things F1 outside of racing, the outpouring of adulation since Raikkonen’s announcement shows just how loved he was by fans.

Raikkonen has stood out since making his F1 debut all the way back in 2001. While it's now become common for young drivers to make their way onto the grid in the current era of the sport, Raikkonen's debut with Sauber at the age of 21 caused an uproar.

Having only competed in 23 car races up to that point, it's no surprise that FIA President Max Mosley voiced his concerns over the move. It's also no surprise, given what we've seen from Raikkonen over the course of his career, that he went out and proved his doubters wrong by scoring points on his debut in Australia.

All while reportedly sleeping as late as 30 minutes before the race.

It's stories like that, along with colourful radio messages and trips to a yacht after retiring from the Monaco GP in 2006, that endeared him to fans across the globe. Raikkonen was fast, but he could also be entertaining, two things that don't always come together for F1 stars.

And boy, was he fast. He never looked out of place while battling with the likes of Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso, and you could argue that his one World Championship doesn't do his career justice, given how good he actually was.

However, as Raikkonen pointed out while he speaking with the media ahead of the 2021 Dutch Grand Prix, he has no regrets about his time in the sport.

If the Iceman feels that way, then we should as well. Raikkonen will go down as a true F1 legend, a rare character the like of which the sport and its fans may never see again.

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