Though a late entrant into Formula One, Keke Rosberg was the original Flying Finn, known for his dashing and daring style of driving. Even though his Grand Prix victories might not number to those of Formula One greats, Keke Rosberg still ranks among the highest players simply for his speed and talent. Born Keijo Erik Risberg, he changed his name to Keke to make it easier for the media to remember and address him. His parents were students at the time of his birth and returned to Finland after completion of their studies from Sweden. His father, a veterinarian and mother, a chemist, participated in rallies and Keke’s first experience behind the wheel occurred, when he was left alone in the car and he promptly turned on the ignition and smashed the car into the garage door.
Despite his first experience, he soon became an impressive kart racer, having taken to the sport while he was still a toddler. Even though he had wanted to become a dentist or computer programmer, his career path was consistently directed towards motorsports. He won the Finnish kart championship five times and also the Scandinavian and European Championship in 1975. Within the same year he graduated to Formula Vee and Super Vee and won ten out 21 races that he participated in. A few years later, in 1978, he managed to participate in 41 races over 36 weekends, over five continents. While driving for the American entrant Fred Opert, Keke came in an impressive fifth in the European Formula Two championship, an even better second in the North American Formula Atlantic series, and finally in a similar car, he came in first at the Formula Pacific series.
Keke Rosberg was now a professional racing driver, even his passport listed his job as racing driver. The fact that he had never spent his own money on the sport, and had managed to derive a profit from it, only made the claim more legitimate. To facilitate his claim, Keke developed a “bread and butter theory, where the bread was produced by racing, and butter from elsewhere”. The money from elsewhere was from marketing himself, where he would sell off space on his car or his suit and even perform some duties as a salesman for the goods he endorsed.
But all this could not help him make an impact in Formula One, making his debut in 1978, Keke drove a completely inadequate Theodore, for a team funded by Teddy Yip, a wealthy Hong Kong businessman. Keke describes the Theodore as “an absolute pig of a car”, and did not fare any better with his following teams, ATS, Wolf and Fittipaldi.
Keke was 33 years old and though had a more than comfortable lifestyle, had still not made an impact in Formula One racing.