F1 Fanatic guest writer Journeyer takes us on a video tour of the career of three-time Belgian Grand Prix winner Kimi Raikkonen.
As we head to the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, one man has dominated here this decade – Kimi Raikkonen. Three-time winner, and contender for the win here last year, this man can run a blistering pace through the Ardennes forest.
He entered F1 with such little experience, and yet he didn’t disappoint. Here’s his early history – before and during his early years in F1.
1999 – As is par for the course, Raikkonen began his career in karts. Here’s a short Finnish feature about his karting exploits – including the rare sight of him working on his kart.
2000 – This was the year Raikkonen registered on the F1 radar. He dominated the Formula Renault UK championship and won the title easily. Peter Sauber decided to take an extraordinary risk by promoting him right away into F1 (skipping categories like Formula Three and Formula 3000). They managed to get him a test at Mugello. Here’s an interview with him from that year (with English subtitles).
2001 – Raikkonen began impressing people from day one. His qualifying lap in Australia suitably impressed Murray Walker and Martin Brundle. But Sunday was an even bigger story – despite falling asleep in the sun before the race, he managed to get his car sixth to score a point on his debut.
Here’s an onboard lap with Raikkonen as he navigated his way through Monaco in qualifying. His rookie year was so impressive that McLaren got him to replace the retiring Mika Hakkinen – swiping Raikkonen from under Ferrari’s nose!
2002 – Raikkonen’s first year with McLaren brought mixed results. He repeatedly suffered from retirements, and also had the odd driver error. Here’s one from that year’s French Grand Prix – just a handful of laps away from beating Michael Schumacher to take his first win, he suddenly ran over some oil. Schumacher didn’t need to be asked twice, and took the win along with his fifth championship.
On the other hand, that year also showed a lot of promise – three podiums that year and a fantastic lap to qualify second in Belgium. Sadly, his Belgian race wasn’t as good – ending in an engine failure.
2003 – Any doubts about Raikkonen’s ability were wiped away that year when he mounted an unlikely title campaign. He kicked it off with a podium in Australia, then his first-ever race win in Malaysia. The future looked very bright indeed.
It was an unlikely campaign because his McLaren wasn’t in the same league as Ferrari and Williams for much of the season. And yet, retirements that year for Raikkonen were rare. This was one of them – a controversial shunt in Germany with Rubens Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher.
2004 – This year was frustrating for Raikkonen and McLaren. Their car lacked pace and reliability for some time. Their comeback began in Britain, where Raikkonen surprised the paddock by securing pole. And this time, he kept up the pace to finish second behind Michael Schumacher and ahead of Barrichello.
This reached its peak when Raikkonen broke Michael’s streak of seven consecutive wins by beating him in a straight duel in Belgium. This came after starting in the midfield and having to claw his way back up the order! Michael may have clinched his seventh championship that day, but Raikkonen became the king of Spa.
By this time, many thought that Raikkonen would win the title eventually – it was a matter of when rather than if. But he also had to go through some more tough seasons as well. That and more in part two tomorrow.
Read more: Kimi Raikkonen biography