Could retiring, media-shy Finnish single-seater ace return to the stages?
In Formula 1, Kimi is finis, with the recent announcement that Räikkönen will retire at the end of this season. Typically, he says he won’t miss it. But listen between the sound bites and he isn’t ruling out a return to rallying, in which he drove with Citroën from 2010 to 2011. On both those occasions, he ended up 10th in the championship.
How good was Räikkönen at rallying? The short answer is very good; the results never told the full story. With more time in the car, he could have been right up there.
But I would say that, because I was Räikkönen’s PR at the time, a role described by some people as being like that of head butcher at the Vegan Society. Except the reality was very different, as he showed another side to the sometimes publicity-shy individual who lit up Formula 1. “Whatever you say, the media will twist it so you end up saying what they want you to say,” he explained famously. “It’s best to say nothing.”
Now it’s no longer his problem. Räikkönen has been offered a test in the all-conquering Toyota Yaris WRC, but it’s unlikely you’ll find him doing a full championship campaign – although he always said that if he ever won the World Rally Championship, it would mean more to him than his 2007 Formula 1 title.
Instead, Räikkönen is much more likely to go rallying for fun occasionally: a bit like he did when he was driving for Ferrari and was sometimes seen out in his Abarth Grande Punto Super 2000, complete with ‘Iceman’ colour scheme.
Now that he doesn’t have to drive the company Fiat any more, what would appeal to him are the big adventures: events such as the Safari, the Arctic Rally, perhaps even the Dakar. He’d probably love to sample the classic cars, too: machinery like the MkII Ford Escort or Impreza WRC – although there is nothing set in stone.
“No plans for now, but I don’t want a schedule,” he says. “Last time I did rallying, there was always a schedule. I don’t want that. I’m not in a rush.”
Luckily for someone who often likes to pass unnoticed, there’s a tradition of drivers using pseudonyms in rallying – as Räikkönen has done when entering powerboat races in the past, borrowing the identity of his favourite Formula 1 driver. If you see ‘James Hunt’ on the entry list of a rally next year, you’ll know who it is…