After nearly nine long months, the 2021 Formula One World Championship ended with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen prevailing over Mercedes legend Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ championship in what was a truly remarkable battle.
However, the end of the championship also brought the career of legendary Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen to a close, and this article will take a look-back at his career.
Born in Espoo, Finland in October 1979, Raikkonen made his Formula 1 debut back in 2001, driving for the then-Sauber team (they now compete as Alfa Romeo Racing).
He impressed in his first season in Formula 1, finishing 10th in the drivers’ championship, and was then signed by McLaren for 2002 after two-time world champion and fellow Finn Mika Hakkinen’s retirement.
Raikkonen began his McLaren career impressively, with a third-place finish in the opening race of that season to achieve his first podium finish, though the rest of the season was hampered by poor reliability and several non-race finishes.
He did much better in 2003, however, as he took his first Formula 1 win in Malaysia and only fell short of winning the drivers’ championship by 2 points to Michael Schumacher.
The 2004 season proved to be an extremely disappointing one for Raikkonen, with initially dismal results in an extremely uncompetitive car, before an improved car led to better results and a solitary win in Belgium.
In 2005, the combination of Raikkonen and McLaren proved an extremely strong one as he challenged Fernando Alonso for the world championship, with Raikkonen achieving seven wins – poor reliability of the car, however, proved costly, and Alonso ultimately prevailed in the drivers’ championship.
The 2006 season proved to be less successful for Raikkonen, with McLaren proving less competitive and he finished the season without a win.
Raikkonen then made a big move from McLaren to Ferrari for 2007, replacing Michael Schumacher who had retired at the end of 2006 (Schumacher then returned to Formula 1 in 2010 before finally retiring for good at the end of 2012).
This move paid off for Raikkonen, as he became world champion in 2007, taking six wins in the process and finishing one point ahead of McLaren duo Hamilton and Alonso as he took the title at the final race of the season in Brazil.
He began 2008 strongly, winning two of the first four races that season and initially leading the drivers’ Championship.
However, the rest of that season was a disappointment and he failed to win any more races, finishing a distant third in the drivers’ championship as Hamilton went on to take his first title.
The 2009 campaign began extremely poorly for Raikkonen, in what was an extremely uncompetitive car, before improvements to the car’s performance led to better results and a victory in Belgium. However, relations with the team became increasingly strained and he was released from his contract a year early and was paid his salary for 2010, as Alonso then replaced him.
After being released by Ferrari, Raikkonen left Formula 1 and switched to rallying, besides competing in a couple of NASCAR races.
Eventually, he returned to Formula 1 in 2012 with Lotus (who now compete as Alpine) and showed that he still had the ability to perform strongly. That year, he won the Abu Dhabi race and told his engineer over the radio to “Just leave me alone, I know what to do” – a quote that will forever remain iconic.
Raikkonen remained with Lotus in 2013 and began the season well with victory in the opening race in Melbourne. However, the team ran into considerable financial difficulty and struggled to pay Raikkonen’s wages in time, and he eventually left to re-join Ferrari in 2014.
His return to Ferrari was not particularly successful, as he was consistently beaten by both his team-mates Fernando Alonso in 2014 and Sebastian Vettel from 2015 to 2018. However, Raikkonen did manage to claim victory in the 2018 United States Grand Prix in what turned out to be his final success in Formula 1.
Raikkonen moved to Alfa Romeo Racing for 2019 and was replaced at Ferrari by Charles Leclerc.
His time with Alfa Romeo began decently, but the car’s competitiveness tailed off and strong performances and results became far less frequent.
Eventually, Raikkonen announced back in September that he would retire from the sport at the end of this season.
In his Formula 1 career, Raikkonen won 21 races, achieved 18 pole positions, and finished on the podium 103 times, having started a record 349 races.
He bows out as a legend of the sport and will surely be missed by many!