This is a guest article by Christine Blanchford.
It’s the final part of our series looking at the three championship contenders heading into the final rounds.
Today, Christine Blachford from Sidepodcast argues for Kimi Raikkonen
As any ticket to a Grand Prix will tell you, motorsport is dangerous.
Or rather it used to be, before the pedestrian drivers arrived with their higher cockpits and extravagant run-off areas. Sometimes you wonder if they wouldn’t rather race each other on Playstation, in a padded room, ensconced in bubble-wrap… just in case.
F1 used to be exciting, frightening and in some cases perilous. Drivers were heroes, people to look up to, to admire and adore. On the surface racing isn’t like that anymore, but peel back the covers and you’ll find a man battling for the world championship the hero’s way, a man whose mood you can judge by the quantity of champagne he consumes, and one who winds down in the winter by racing snowmobiles.
That man is Kimi Matias Raikkonen. The only thing you need to know about Kimi is that he’s a proper racer. Above everything else Kimi wants to win.
And it’s not just the championship we’re talking about here. He wants to win every single race, no matter what, no matter when.
He’s also incredibly brave – take qualifying in Spa 2002 for example. Back in the days when qualifying was actually exciting, Kimi was starting a fast lap just as a BAR expired in the first sector. The expectation was Raikkonen’s lap would be ruined. But no. Despite being able to see nothing at all, despite the fact that he had no idea if a stricken car would be blocking his path, the Finnish driver went faster in the first sector than he ever had before.
Just imagine that for a second, driving through a thick plume of smoke at top speed, with no reference points and only your imagination and memory for guidance. Some people called it madness, I prefer magnificent.
Failing that, take 2005 N??rburgring instead. You often here commentators use the phrase “driving the wheels off the car”, but rarely does a driver do such a thing. Unless your name is Kimi Raikkonen of course. Kimi was nearing the end of the race, but suffering from a flat spotted tyre, his car was in trouble. The front wheel was bouncing so much that fans in the grandstand could hear it ‘thumping’ over the noise of the V10.
The sensible choice would have been to pit and change the offending rubber, but Kimi was leading, and a win was at stake. Driving at almost 290km/h his car gave up before he did, and threw him into the wall.
Would he do the same again? Of course he would. At the beginning of this year, the man struggled to adapt to his new Ferrari, but it didn’t take long for him to feel at home.
Gone were the stifling, touchy-feely days of McLaren, into a new, harder, more professional atmosphere and it looks like it’s done him the world of good.
While his ex-colleagues are struggling to contain two fiery and hot-headed championship contenders, Kimi is keeping his head down. You don’t hear him complaining about equality, because he doesn’t need it.
I’m so glad that Kimi is still in with a shot at the title. The odds may be stacked against him, the chances may be slim, he’s going into the last round as the underdog, and the race will require a ‘win at all costs’ mentality. I bet he wouldn’t want it any other way.
Christine Blachford writes and reports for Sidepodcast.