He came, he went, he came back again, and now he’s going. Again. With Kimi Raikkonen moving to pastures new – well old and new – Joe Diamond takes a look back at his turbulent two-year stint with Lotus F1.
The Iceman left a significant hole in the sport when he departed the paddock at the end of 2009, after a turbulent relationship with Ferrari finally came to a head. Many were delighted to see F1’s Flying Finn return with Lotus F1 at the start of 2012, after two seasons of driving sideways very quickly between trees, and even a brief stint over in the States driving left – a lot – in a truck.
But let’s not forget what makes Kimi who he is – speed. Largely considered to be amongst the crème-de-la-crème of Formula One drivers (he is a World Champion with Ferrari after all) he soon started to establish himself once again as a front-runner, taking 2nd in the Bahraini Grand Prix, just shy of victory behind some one-trick pony called Sebastian Vettel. It was this podium that triggered run of 25 consecutive points finishes for Kimi, and in doing so surpassing the record of another one-hit wonder German called Michael Schumacher.
Through his consistency, Raikkonen soon resumed his role as a title challenger, dicing with Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Vettel throughout the season for top honours in the 2012 championship. Off-track he was winning just as many fans as he was on, with a quite funny and very likable relaxed attitude to everything, especially cameras and microphones. In-fact, Sky Sports F1 actually went to the lengths of creating a feature on in the Finn, entitled “Kimi’s Quote of the Week” – often just a simple “Yes” or “No”.
Did somebody say Mika Hakkinen? It must be a Finnish thing…
Kimi Raikkonen’s season closing victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was perhaps the most popular of the season, partly down to the close-but-no-cigar reputation gathering pace for Lotus and their drivers. Nonetheless, Kimi held off Alonso in the latter stages to take the win, his first since the 2009 Belgium Grand Prix and the team’s first in the guise of Lotus F1.
However let’s not lose sight of priority in this look back at Kimi’s time in black-and-gold, because it was of course Abu Dhabi 2012, that played host to the perhaps the greatest radio message in modern F1 history. We won’t quote it, you’ve probably got the t-shirt.
And despite recent turbulence, 2013 has hardly been a poor year for the Finland/Enfield combination either. The duo stole a march in the opening race of the season to take victory Down Under, before continuing their crusade on the points-paying finishes. Perhaps the Finn’s finest 2013 moment came in Monaco when, after a clash with Sergio Perez, Kimi found himself in 13th at the start of the final lap, out of the points. Miraculously, roughly 1 minute and 15 seconds later on the twisting streets of the Principality, he crossed the line in 10th. Blimey.
With Raikkonen moving back to Ferrari for 2014, it’s sad that the Lotus/Kimi partnership is at an end (curtailed of course by Kimi’s back surgery keeping him out of Austin and Interlagos). The team’s laid-back stance on PR work and Raikkonen’s anti-celebrity preferences has at times worked a dream, in the same way that a phenomenally fast and front-running team has over the past two seasons.
OK, so things may have turned sour with cash-flow issues and a seemingly crumbling relationship under the surface, but one cannot over look the good in terms of fanbbase, reputation and results that Lotus F1 has done for Kimi Raikkonen and vice-versa.