Kimi RaikkonenV2.indd 60 3/31/10 2:41:47 PM
GH DEAL When Formula 1 messed him around, 2007 World Champ
Kimi Raikkonen decided to take on a new challenge – the
gravel, mud and snow of the World Rally Championship
Words Stig-Per Bergman Image Vesa Koivunen/Red Bull Photoﬁles
ome feel that Kimi Raikkonen’s switch to the FIA World team and Red Bull helping with the
Rally Championship is the result of brinksmanship gone sponsorship. In the end, it wasn’t so
awry, and that he’ll lose interest and patience way before diﬃcult a choice.”
the experiment is given time to succeed or fail. For the WRC, landing Raikkonen is a
Others think it’s somehow preordained, and that the huge, but unexpected catch for a series
opportunity it presents can bring rallying back to where it was that, putting it kindly, is treading water.
in the late 1990s, when Colin McRae, Tommi Makinen and Co. Sure, it’s still breathing unaided and can
turned it into the digital age’s ﬁrst truly global extreme sport. still provide occasional moments of white-
Not that Raikkonen actually cares what anybody else thinks... knuckle exhilaration from its depleted
That isn’t selﬁshness or a lack of awareness on his part. It’s roster, but it’s a shell of its former self.
just that the 2007 Formula 1 World Champion doesn’t go racing A manufacturer exodus; near-total
to change the world or feed oﬀ the adulation. For Raikkonen, domination by one driver, compounded by
it begins and ends with satisfying his own desires and the lack of new heroes; the loss of classics
motivations. The rest? It’s just noise. Simple as that. like the Safari and Monte Carlo Rally and
In a nine-year F1 career, he had complexity thrust upon him – the identity-sapping homogenization of
the politics, the endless scrutiny and, eventually, the those that remain; uncertainty over the
Machiavellian moves that saw him pushed aside and paid technical regulations and schedule, and
oﬀ by Ferrari, the team to whom he’d delivered its ﬁrst thinning major-market TV coverage. It all
post-Michael Schumacher Drivers’ World Championship. adds up to a series that’s seen better days.
He could have stayed in F1, earned a tidy sum from a return Actually, there are some encouraging
to McLaren, but, for now, enough was enough. In late 2009, signs for the longer term, like a shift
feelers were put out to the WRC and, not surprisingly, Red Bull back toward more ﬂexible event formats,
and the Citroen Junior Team were quick to accommodate him. the whiﬀ of a new manufacturer or two
For Raikkonen, the move provides a fresh challenge, but no on the breeze, and a genuine challenger
guarantees of success. Like Michael Jordan’s ill-starred switch for Sebastien Loeb in the shape of Mikko
from hoops to baseball, this could go either way. Signiﬁcantly, Hirvonen. But, short term at least,
it’s also a chance to shed so much of the noise and clutter. Raikkonen’s appearance on the scene is a
“I always had the passion for the WRC,” he says, “and I much-needed adrenaline shot.
wanted to try to see how it is. After whatever happened at the Was it a surprise that Raikkonen
end of last year, we found the solution to race with a great chose the WRC? Not entirely. Being
Citroen/Red Bull Photoﬁles
(MAIN) This isn’t Monaco...but cold is the least
of the challenges for Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen.
(ABOVE) Rally Mexico was a short, sharp, yet
valuable lesson for the former F1 champ.
MA 2010 61