Kimi Raikkonen is probably the only Formula1 driver who has come into the racing scene with the most unconventional of backgrounds. He started his professional racing career in 1999 and in just his second year as a professional, burst onto the F1 tracks. His entire career has had an extremely strong and constantly rising graph.
He started his career in the Formula Renault Winter Series where he took part in just 4 races. His results in those races were incredible as he came out with a perfect 4-on-4 win record. Due to some major technical issues, Kimi was unable to participate in the remaining part of the season and thus after only participating in 4 races, which he won, he ended up in third position in the final standings. In 1999, he also took part in the Formula Ford Zetec Euro Cup and although his finishes weren’t as spectacular as the Formula Renault, he came away with a respectable 5th place.
In 2000, things became better as he won the Formula Renault Euro 2000 Series. He participated with Manor Motorsports and got back with 2 pole starts and 2 wins in his 3 races. He also won the Formula British Championship, with Manor Motorsports, finishing with 10 podium finishes out of which he won 7 races. He registered 7 pole position starts and 6 fastest laps during the course of the races. But despite all this, his biggest achievement came in 2000 in the form of an opportunity to test-drive his first Formula1 car, a Sauber Petronas.
In 2001, Kimi was given the opportunity to live his dream and become a full time Formula1 driver for the Sauber Petronas team. He made his debut in the Australian Grand Prix and got a point finish in his very first race. He finished the season with 9 points and in 10th place overall.
His career was moving along at break-neck speed as one of the legendary teams of Formula1, McLaren Mercedes, came calling for the 2002 season. Kimi, now, had a faster car, better reliability and that was all the incentive he ever needed.
He was quick… really quick!!! The new ‘Flying Finn’ on the block was just coming up to become a force to reckon with. In just his second season with the special license, he gave the world a glimpse of what he is capable of, grabbing 6th place overall, at the end of the season with 24 brilliantly earned points.
His ability was just beginning to shine through and the man who was brought in to play second fiddle to the great David Coulthard, suddenly threatened DC’s status as McLaren’s number one driver. The only issue that did crop up was the nine retirements that showed how hard Kimi was pushing his McLaren. Maybe it was just his inexperience showing in those places, but everyone knew that Kimi drove with his heart on the edge.
The 2003 season was incredible for this young Finn. If it hadn’t been for Rubens Barrichello beating him at the Japanese Grand Prix, Kimi would have been crowned World Champion, beating the great Michael Schumacher. Unfortunately for Kimi, he finished one position off of what he needed to gain those 2 points that would give him the win over Schumacher. In 2004, he was disappointing. He started with 3 retirements at Sepang, Melbourne and at Interlagos. Things were slow for him as he just managed to get one victory and just 4 podium finishes on his way to 7th place.
2005 was a much more open year for the title race as there was no Schumacher, for one, in the title challenge and only Fernando Alonso had any say in how things were to turn out. A ferocious battle ensued and Alonso came out on top in the end, despite Kimi’s 112 points that had 12 podium finishes and 7 wins.
2006 became all about Schumacher’s last season in the sport and his eventual battle with Alonso. Raikkonen had a dismal season with just 65 points and no wins. He ended up on the podium 6 times but his season was nowhere as good as the man from Finland would have wanted.
Michael Schumacher’s retirement from the sport meant that Ferrari now had an empty place in one of their cars, next to Massa. Kimi became the obvious choice and although there were speculations as to whether he would be able to live up to the billing, Ferrari were confident that they had made the right decision.
Not only was Kimi brought in to replace Schumacher, he was also slated to become the World’s highest paid driver. Kimi ensured that the team was not made to regret this decision.
2007 was all about McLaren and Ferrari. The battle between Double World Champion Fernando Alonso and rookie Lewis Hamilton was so engrossing that Kimi’s third place drives almost went by unnoticed. There was so much excitement regarding Hamilton that everyone almost forgot that there was another young Finn who had the chance of upsetting Alonso.
On the final day of the season, with Hamilton 7 points ahead and Alonso, 4, Raikkonen took the final race win while Hamilton and Alonso failed to do the needful. So there was it… Kimi’s first title! Since threatening to get there twice before and falling just short, the Finn finally proved his critics wrong and has made a lasting impression in the sport.
In 2008, Kimi has had a wonderful start already and with Massa, the two have gotten 4 wins for the Scarlet racecar already. Whether he is able to continue to the end with this pace is something only time will tell but there is one thing for sure, win or not, Kimi will ensure that the season will be full of exciting moments of blistering pace. He has the burden of having to live up to the likes of Schumacher and knowing Kimi, he wouldn’t do anything less.
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