“So many people love him”: Raikkonen’s rivals pay tribute to retiring champion

2021 F1 season

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Kimi Raikkonen announced his retirement ahead of the Dutch Grand Prix but was unable to start the race following his positive test for Covid-19.

However he will return to the championship at the next round in Russia for the first of what should be the final eight races of his career.

The driver’s former team mates and rivals paid tribute to the achievements of the 2007 world champion and winner of 21 grands prix, most recently at Circuit of the Americas in 2018.

Raikkonen joined Formula 1 in 2001, not long after some of his present rivals were born. After beating Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso to the world drivers’ title in 2007, he spent two further years at Ferrari before leaving F1 at the end of 2009.

Following a spell in rallying and even a brief sojourn into NASCAR, Raikkonen returned to F1 with Lotus in 2012. He won twice with the team before reuniting with Ferrari for a longer, five-year stint. he later joined Alfa Romeo and has become the most experienced driver in F1 history, with a record 341 starts to his name.

After Raikkonen announced his retirement plans, his current rivals drivers reflected on his influence on their own careers and reputation on and off track.

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Monza, 2018
“A long and great career” – Vettel
Raikkonen’s team mate at Ferrari, from 2015 until 2018

“I wish him all the best. I think he’s been around a long time and is an incredible talent. So seeing that first-hand as a team-mate for some years was impressive.

“Just the amount of speed he has right from the get-go and the ability to get used to different conditions, different cars. He’s definitely earned his place and had obviously a long and great career.”

Fernando Alonso

Raikkonen’s championship rival and team mate at Ferrari in 2014

“We will miss him because obviously he has been [in F1] for many years and we had great battles. In the past, more because we had more competitive cars and we were fighting for championships and podiums and things like that.

“There are always 20 drivers in F1 and we go up and down on the order and we go, sometimes not in the sport anymore and it’s probably his decision. I think he [had] an amazing career, he did enjoy the time here and for sure, wishing him the best for for the future.”

Lewis Hamilton

“I’d always be in Kimi’s car” – Hamilton
McLaren junior driver while Raikkonen drove for the team

“He’s had an incredibly long career. He’s been here a long, long time. He’s got a family and he’s already said he’s got things he’s looking forward to enjoying beyond. But I just admire his will to continue racing, clearly racing in his blood.

“I remember, before I got to Formula 1, being a huge fan of Kimi’s and when I played the computer games, I’d always be in Kimi’s car, so this crazy experience of racing against him, losing a championship to him and then seeing lots of great battles, and so he will be missed.”

Antonio Giovinazzi

Alfa Romeo team mate since 2019

“I knew him since 2017 when I joined Ferrari as the third driver and to be honest straight away we had a great relationship together.

“I think Kimi is really fair inside and outside of the track, from my side. No politics, great team mate and for me he was a big help when I joined Formula 1, to be his team mate, I learnt so many things from him. Especially in the race he’s still really, really strong and also the passion that he has for the sport, after many years, he’s still really motivated now.

“So, yeah, a really great guy and for sure Formula 1 will miss him.”

Valtteri Bottas

“He had an impact on me as a youngster” – Bottas

“I think, like he said himself, that nothing lasts for forever and eventually always there’s time for something new and he had an impressive and long career in Formula 1. One of the longest, if not the longest.

“But for sure, he had an impact on me as a youngster. I was following him closely when he started in Formula 1. I was following his season when he won the world championship. At that time, I was doing my first season in single seaters, in Formula Renault when he won his his title with Ferrari.

“He’s obviously a big, big star in Finland. He’s a bit of a legend. So it’s definitely always was good fun to watch him.

“It’s been nice also racing with him because he’s one of one of the drivers that when when you race with, you’re quite comfortable, you’re not going wheel to wheel. He has always had good respect to you, to his competition, just the way I like racing.”

Mick Schumacher

“When I heard the news, I was obviously quite sad because I was looking forward to driving another year on the same grid as him.

“But I think that he’s got family and he’s saying he wants probably to see something else other than Formula 1 one, which is understandable after so many years. But definitely sad.

“I remember the first time where we really were in the same room for some time was in St. Petersburg when the FIA Gala was there and we all had a very good time. So definitely we’ll miss those moments.”

Sergio Perez

“I think Kimi has had an incredible career. I remember looking up to him in the very early days, with the fights that he had with Fernando.

“I think he can be extremely proud of what he’s achieved in the sport, he’s certainly enjoyed his time on the sport his own way. I think Kimi was a very unique character, a very unique person and I just wish him the very best in his next chapter of life and all the happiness that he deserves.

Daniel Ricciardo

Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Ring, 2018
“To win a race post-comeback was impressive” – Ricciardo

“All reaction when when someone retires – in a way or you’re happy for them because they’ve made the decision, he’s obviously at peace with it and he’s at a point in his life where he’s ready to do other things. So I’m happy for him to have that next chapter.

“I think looking back on his career, when I was a fan of the sport growing up, I remember he was young and fast. That was that was the image. And was able just to jump in a car and have that raw speed and [he] also made a very successful comeback after leaving for two years. So then to win a race post-comeback was impressive.

“I know he has a family and stuff, so I’m happy for him to be more of a dad probably in the future now and spend some more time probably at home.

Esteban Ocon

It is sad news. Of course, we are missing a character of Formula 1 and one fantastic driver that has left a big mark into the sport.

We don’t talk much with Kimi, he doesn’t talk much to to anybody, but clearly we will miss him and the fights I had with him were great. And he’s an amazing driver. I wish him the best for his future.

Lando Norris

“He’s one of the guys who’s made Formula 1 what it is today, since many years ago. So I think he’ll be missed.

“He’s obviously not a big talker, so he won’t be missed as in how much he says but more for the for the opposite reason in a way. So he has a lot of character and also not much character at the same time and so many people love him because of it so he’ll be missed, I think, by many.

“Still one of the best drivers which have been in Formula 1 and he’s achieved a lot of things more than many of us drivers who are on the grid currently. So yeah, one day I would love to emulate him in a way.”

George Russell

“The first time I ever spoke to Kimi, the conversation ended with him twisting my nipples, at the FIA gala in 2018. He is one of a kind, [I have] a huge amount of respect for everything he’s achieved on track and off circuit as well.

“He’s a bit of a legend and for sure he’ll be missed. There’s no one like him.”

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2021 Dutch Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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26 comments on ““So many people love him”: Raikkonen’s rivals pay tribute to retiring champion”

  1. There’s no one like him, the last line in the article.

    That’s why he’ll be missed – he’s one of a kind. Maybe the promoters and team media types should remember that people love the characters, not the clones.

  2. I never “followed” Kimi per se….. No. Maybe I should say that there has always been others racing that I have been supporting for the win.

    That said, I have always loved his character, and certainly feel his talent should perhaps have had even greater rewards.

    Most surprisingly though, I feel quite sentimental at his departure (maybe I am just getting old).

    1. Same here..we are getting old for sure, that’s what it is!

  3. Guilty as charged here ;-) The most popular man on the grid and he would probably win an all-time popularity poll if there were one. All the best to him in retirement and I for one hope to see him guide his immensely talented son, Robin, to F1 some day.

    1. @andrewwj

      The most popular man on the grid and he would probably win an all-time popularity poll if there were one.

      Being the most popular man beyond the surface while Formula 1 as a business never has done very much to promote him as such (he did it himself, as they prefer to sell the “nice” guys) is no small feat!

      Reply moderated
  4. GOAT of the sport, the greatest of the greats and the fastest guy on the grid. F1 is nothing without Kimi.

    1. if you think Kimi is the GOAT you’ve set the bar pretty low. should have called it quits in 2014

      1. He’s probably the biggest raikkonen fan in the world, so not entirely unexpected!

  5. I’ll admit Raikkonen was my first favourite driver and along with Button helped me get into F1 the most – I’ve supported him no matter which team he went to. As people have said, totally unique character, takes no messing about and does none – nobody is like Kimi Raikkonen. I’m certain he will be missed on the F1 grid moving forwards.

  6. The last of a dying breed. He brought a taste of the 70s attitude to modern F1. As much as I love F1, he’s the least sanitized driver on the grid and therefore, IMO, the most real. People say he’s the Iceman, but nobody else shows more clearly what he likes and what he dislikes.

    1. PMP

      The last of a dying breed. He brought a taste of the 70s attitude to modern F1.

      Only Alonso will remain from the age of V6, tyre wars, one shot at quali, tobacco sponsorships, grid girls, etc. He and Raikkonen had been for a couple of years the sole survivors of a vintage Formula 1 that is passing by. The difference between them is, while Alonso fits well his time and has been successful in adapting to a new F1 as well, Raikkonen seems to belong to the 60s and 70s with his unique ragged attitude. Formula 1 will be even less authentic without him.

      Reply moderated
    2. Yes, this is what a lot of people like about raikkonen.

  7. Kimi’s response to all this homage: Bwoah!
    And leave the spot… ;D
    Only him on the grid is cold/ballsy enough to do that. Naturally he’s not a PR pushover like the majority of current drivers.

    Reply moderated
    1. Neither is he a whiner whilst thinking of himself as something authentic. If there’s one thing in current PC-prone era that isn’t authentic is kep whining about some sort of oppression or (imaginary) persecution.

      Reply moderated
  8. A few more Kimi’s on the grid wouldn’t go astray, F1 has become a bit three piece suit, Hamilton and Ricciardo being the exceptions.

  9. Wait… Are these the driver quotes from the video on YouTube put up weeks ago?

  10. ” So he has a lot of character and also not much character at the same time”. Nail on the head by Norris. Kimi is also very much 2D instead of 3D. Simple with simple replies.

  11. So these are not new quotes, they were from Zandvoort 2 weeks ago. At least most of them, if my memory serves me right. Why put them up now? If there’s nothing new to show, there’s no need to force an article for a slow day like a raceless sunday…

  12. The wife used to watch races with me when we first met, but I eventually realized it was not only to take an interest in what I was into as most of the comments were Raikkonen this, Raikkonen that, hehe.

  13. The only worthwhile quote is George saying Kimi twisted his nipples at the 2018 FIA Gala (presumably the gala where Kimi is famously drunk?)

  14. Kimi is just one of a kind and irreplaceable.
    He gives a f about his fans, but still got millions of them, because we love him for who he is. He’s no media puppet like most of today’s drivers, always 100% honest and a journalist’s worst nightmare =D

    At his peak he was one of the fastest drivers in the history of F1, maybe even faster than Schumi and Fernando. Definitely deserved at least two more championships.

    1. He was fast all right between 2003 and 2007, maybe a stretch to say he was faster than schumacher, and as for alonso, it’s hard to compare cause most remember their 2005 rivalry and say: were it not for the mechanical problems he’d have won the title, BUT that mclaren would’ve been dominant had it been reliable, so one can’t draw he was faster than alonso from the 2005 season, but I guess he was far closer back then than in 2014.

  15. Sebastian Vettel “I wish him all the best. I think he’s been around a long time…” LOL! That was funny.

    Sebastian Vettel “I think I’m still a race car driver.”

  16. TMI George … !!

  17. The best tribute at his final race would be a presentation on the grid while every other driver leaves for a comfort break.

    I trust most people know the history there and that early gem from Kimi wasn’t just for the benefit of the UK coverage.

  18. Far from a raikkonen fan but indeed unique personality and I was one of those who were hoping for a last win in 2018 when he was giving signs he was up to it with that ferrari, such as chasing verstappen in austria and getting the fastest lap in the last lap, right behind him, or monza, a very impressive race alone vs both mercedes, since vettel spun again, where the tyres gave in a few laps to go, and then finally austin, with the ending 15 laps with raikkonen, verstappen and hamilton at times all within a 2 sec gap, marking the longest gap between race wins for a driver, I’m glad it happened before he left ferrari because, as it was predictable, even a podium was too much after.

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