“Don’t give me options!”. If there is a sentence that has stuck with me, one of the few that is intelligibly pronounced by Kimi Raikkonen, this is it. Don’t give me options, don’t make me choose. We were at the beginning of our joint adventure in Ferrari and, preparing an event, I had proposed, out of a banal form of courtesy, to choose between different possibilities (I would love to remember what it was, but it is not important). He uttered the phrase – one of his trademarks, along with “more worse”And other very personal interpretations of the English language – in a peremptory tone, but not annoyed. We were taking measures for each other and he wanted to set the record straight. He never liked choosing when it comes to these things. At the launch of the 2018 single-seater, the SF71H which was also his last Ferrari, we had prepared a series of short descriptions to present all the circuits of the season. He read his lyrics like a dyslexic robot and at one point he said to me: this stuff doesn’t make sense. I replied that, not being a pilot, I had requested the collaboration of Marc Genè, who knows about tracks; but that if he didn’t like what was written, he could very well improvise on his experience. The answer was obvious and immediate: nah, let’s go ahead with this. Don’t give me options, in fact.
At a certain point it is life that leaves you with only one option. Maybe after twenty years, maybe, including those spent trying to convince himself that rallies were his way. This is not one of Kimi Matias’ many farewells to Formula One: this is the definitive greeting. And I do not think it is a coincidence that nowhere, in the earthly orb, we have heard who said ” Thank god”. With his way of doing things, his crooked personality, the absolute idiosyncrasy to accept compromises as well as options, Kimi has managed to make himself loved by practically everyone. When he left Ferrari in Abu Dhabi in November three years ago, there was the classic farewell party at the hotel. There was him, Minttu, Robin, Rianna, the nanny and the whole racing team. I think I have never seen him so peaceful, a wonderful loving father towards his children. His engineers had prepared a surprise for him: crossing the finish line of his last GP in red, a message of greeting and thanks had to appear on the steering wheel display. For one of those cases where life really seems to do it on purpose, it was an electric blackout that knocked him out after just six laps, which shut down the whole car, including the steering wheel.
The boys in the garage were very badly there. And I’m talking about people who did not ask to tell you how much Iceman, in the technical briefings, was sometimes discontented and grumpy to the point of being offended. The fact is that his armor was too transparent so as not to let see what was behind. That is the desire to close oneself to the complications, to the hypocrisies that fill a paddock more than the noise of the engines. Each of us wears armor, more or less robust, more or less evident. His was so obvious that you ended up forgiving him everything. Especially when you discovered that away from a circuit (or rather: away from everything around a circuit) he was, indeed he is, a different and very interesting person.
To really stop, who knows how many times he had already thought about it. Even if in the end the Alfa Sauber contract, initially for about ten million a year, had certainly not disdained it. Once, at the time of Ferrari, he confided in Stefania, his faithful companion of many years in so many paddocks, about the fact that sometimes he didn’t feel as fast as he used to be. “Maybe I should really retire,” he grumbled. He didn’t do it that year or the next. In the summer of 2018, Sergio Marchionne he would have liked to put it on foot immediately to make room for Charles Leclerc. Instead Kimi stayed all season, won big in Austin, started getting drunk in hospitality and continued all evening, deserting the party in his honor for the simple fact that he couldn’t stand up. Perhaps, over the years, he had lost a bit of speed (or rather of constancy), but certainly also the habit of alcohol in industrial quantities. He had changed a lot, compared to the taciturn boy with his bespectacled girlfriend (the one at the time) that one day he told me “I was a soldier, like everyone else, but I didn’t like it. I didn’t like people telling me what to do “ (if you find him, though, enjoy the video of Kimi graduated from the troop teaching the recruits). He was also different from the disheveled and listless young man who had been pulled out of bed one morning, forced into a plane, brought from Switzerland to Woking to meet a group of reporters. Punctuality was never his forte, not even back in the days when his boss was Ron Dennis at McLaren. The times when he was an up and coming and ruthlessly fast youngster, able to come back from the back at Suzuka 2005 as I have seen few other riders do. The time when he already had a contract with Maranello in his pocket and, although he could not say it, he could not help us understand it, one afternoon in Stuttgart.
I am reminded of an interview with Andrea Stella, his track engineer for years. He told me about when he got out of the car at Interlagos 2007, at the end of an incredible race. Outsider party, world champion arrived. When he took off his helmet and balaclava, they saw an unmistakable glint in the corner of his ice-colored eyes. His emotion, the sign that is worth more than a billion words. This is how it should be taken, Kimi, with his gestures, his grimaces and his monosyllables. That’s his way of communicating. For years I have tried in vain to convince the sponsors of the Cavallino not to let him talk and I am happy that, in the end, we also understood this at Alfa Romeo. The gesture with which, in the commercial that we have all seen, he signals to pass to the possessed in the black coupé is a masterpiece of body language. Sometimes his personality took turns of involuntary but still very effective comedy, like after a victory in Spain: “Yes, I saw your king … He is a nice king “. Other times he let off steam in radio teams that aren’t even worth talking about, they’ve become so iconic. In a few months, Kimi Raikkonen will definitely leave the scene as an active driver. I’m sure he will still be able to enjoy life. He will stay with his family, he will go around barefoot, perhaps with the electric bike that he too has conquered. He will do motocross, he will see his old friends, and every now and then, after a workout or any race, he will throw himself again in the tub full of ice to regenerate.
Because this is, more than anything else, the habit that earned him his usual nickname, Iceman. Did you know?
FP | Alberto Antonini
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