Schumacher & Raikkonen: World Champions From Different Worlds

Schumacher & Raikkonen: World Champions From Different Worlds

Much has been rumoured recently about the future of Ferrari’s driver line-up, and I think only a handful of Formula One pilots are key to the entire ecosystem of the driver market; Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Robert Kubica and Jenson Button. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are two other drivers that are held in high regard, but their medium-term futures seem pretty solid with their current teams. But at the top of the list are the two world champions, and with the eldest being just 28, is it really that odd that Kimi might be considering retirement?

In this day and age, drivers earn a lot of money for piloting a Formula One car, the world champions especially so. Raikkonen’s 2007 – 2009 contract is said be worth $153m, meaning that the Finn will earn $51m each year from Ferrari. Add on bonuses and merchandising/other business interests and you realise that Raikkonen should not need to work again once his contract is up or has been ended.

Michael Schumacher reportedly broke new ground when he signed for Ferrari back in 1996, the German’s contract for the first four years of his decade career at the Scuderia being worth approximately $124m. Schumacher was also reported to earn at least a further 30-60% on top of this with his merchandising. Michael, while he is still employed at Maranello, really doesn’t need to take a salary anymore.

Both drivers achieved their greatest success at Ferrari, and although Kimi is still riding at the top of his game (for arguments sake, he is the reigning champion even if he currently doesn’t look like it) I feel that unless Raikkonen switches to another team at exactly the right moment, he will likely see his Ferrari-years as the most successful in his F1 career.

However, Michael Schumacher went on for fifteen years, broke almost all the records and retired, in my opinion, before he really needed to. Although the speculation surrounding Schumacher’s retirement started in the early-to-mid-’00s, the multiple world champion looked as though he could keep on going for a few more years. You only have to look at his facial expressions while he tests the F2008 to see that he misses racing.

Conversely, Raikkonen looks as though he couldn’t be bothered with this racing nonsense and would rather muck about on a frozen lake in Finland on a skidoo. I’m not seriously suggesting for even a second that this is the case, but the passion just seems to come from somewhere else when you look and listen to the Finn. Kimi has also hinted in the past that he doesn’t want a long career like his predecessor at Ferrari. Raikkonen clearly wanted to be champion in all the years and races prior to Brazil 2007, but I don’t think he has the desire to continually want it over and over again.

Fernando Alonso is another modern-day driver who has expressed the desire to not want to race into his late-thirties. Interestingly though, Alonso appears to have continued the passion to date. The Spaniard moved to McLaren for 2007 because he felt they were the best team at the time to offer him the best chance of winning the title again. And to be fair, along with Ferrari, they were at the time he made the move.

But getting back to Raikkonen and the persistent rumour that he may retire in a year or two and make way for Alonso to join…

…Of all the theories, it appears to be a bit wild, but there is something in it that makes me hesitant to completely dismiss it. I can see Raikkonen retiring in the near future. He has money, security and has had his fun while proving to the world he can be world champion. Schumacher’s attitude was quite different, but then it was he along with his close associates (of which Jean Todt became) that rebuilt Ferrari into the dominant force that it was and to a degree, still is.

Schumacher’s attitude was perhaps traditional, the German driver arguably feeling compelled to continue winning for his team; to continually give back until he could no longer. Raikkonen is part of the new breed, the yoof, if you like. Neither attitude is really wrong. Schumacher had a long and successful career, Raikkonen – if he is of this ilk – sees little point in risking his life any more than he feels he needs to.

So let’s put it to the vote:

[poll:16]

As always, reasons behind your choice are welcomed in the comments below.

Salary source: Wikipedia Entry – List of largest sports contracts.

Photos © Ferrari Spa.

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13 comments

  • Interesting that when Schumacher retired from the sport there were rumors about his retiring as a way to give Raikonnen way to join, now those rumors talk about Raikonnen leaving F1 so that Alonso can take over. I wouldn’t be surprised this time though, he seems to enjoy his life out of the road as much as he likes to compete (maybe even more). Now: Alonso in Ferrari? I would say every single tiffosi out there would prefer to see the Scuderia losing the championship before seeing Spaniard join the team. Time will tell.

  • Oliver,

    What great article, very insightful!!!

    In the Alonso´s case I think that beat Michael and achieve three championships could be good enough for him to put himself among the greatest drivers ever… But Lewis crossed his way and I feel that he has something more to prove now.

    In Kimi ´s case, I must to confess that I have never been able to understand him. In fact he doesn´t seems to be have a Formula 1 driver mentality. Ok, there’s too much genuine talent in there, but he don’t belong at Formula 1 universe or belongs to a romantic era that I can’t be able to understand too.

    Kimi seems to be away of all that’ so I prefer Michael, Fernando or Lewis for their killer instinct and for live under a Formula 1 philosophy.

  • @underdog: I always got the impression that Schumacher retiring was a way to ensure Massa had a future at Ferrari. When the announcement was made at Monza 2006, Schumacher said that he realised he had to make up his mind as it would have been unfair to Massa and his career had he not. From this I get the impression that Kimi was already signed up and would be in a 2007 Ferrari irregardless of who was in the other one – and Massa would have been the first to go had it come to it. But I do see your point; one driver sort of moving on because another hopeful is in the wings.

    Why don’t you think the Tifosi would be happy to see a Spaniard in a Ferrari?

    @Becken: Thanks. Kimi is quite hard to understand, but I think it’s because he has too much of the driver mentality. I think Kimi has a tough time re-focusing himself after getting out of the car. Some drivers are able to immediately switch from intense driver mode to loveable PR-savvy mode. I think Kimi struggles with this and therefore comes across as a very cold and blunt character.

  • Oliver, actually I should have written “before seeing THE Spaniard”, meaning … is not the fact Alonso is Spaniard, is the fact that is Alonso … as they don’t forget the way Alonso got in the way of Schumacher and stopped him from winning more championships … They say Alonso would receive the same treatment Prost got. I guess he (the french) was not well loved by the tifossis.

    BTW, excellent article!

  • F1’s most inscrutable driver, in my book. I honestly couldn’t tell you when he’s going to retire!

    I wonder if some drivers are finding modern F1 so unlike racing they’re actually getting bored with it? Apart from when it rains, their jobs are now more concerned with driving quickly rather than proper wheel-to-wheel racing. Raikkonen has proved exceptional at the latter (his win at Suzuka in 2005 was one of the finest I’ve ever seen) but he rarely gets to do it these days.

    I detect the same malaise in Alonso’s desire to retire early and, of course, Montoya’s abrupt departure from the sport. In contrast, remember how happy Kubica and Massa looked after their scrap at Fuji last year?

  • Kimi will fulfill his contract, then leave without a backward glance. He is not concerned with proving anything, just wants to race (he’s probably one of those adrenalin junkies), and is getting less and less fun out of modern F1. He’ll be snowboarding or climbing mountains without ropes in 2010.

    In contrast, Alonso is a man with something to prove. He wants to be seen as the best (he already knows he is), so he’s trapped by the sport until he can get at least one more championship. And that might be a long time in coming. But he’ll drive for Ferrari in 2010 (which will probably be Renault’s last year in F1).

  • Agree with Clive. Describing Kimi as an adrenalin junkie is probably correct. I think he will retire at the end of his current deal and enjoy the rest of his life, using the money he has earned to feed his habit risk associated actitives – snowboarding for example.

  • I am close friends with Kimi. I can tell you he is retiring at the end of this year if he wins the WDC (there is a clause in his contract to allow this). If somebody else wins he will retire in december 2009. His intention is to retire in December 2008.

    Alonso has already a signed contract (since November 2007) to join Ferrari in 2009 or 2010 (depending on the above). His contract with Renault allows for this.

    How this news have reached the press, who knows!

  • I miss Schumi….. I just hope we get more quality drivers like him. Its what makes the show extra spicy eh?

    As for Kimi, I do love it when I see him race. Yeah he is an adrenalin junkie with no feelings… hahaha! seriously its alright. he can do whatever.

    I just don’t like Alonso and his thick eyebrows.. 🙁

  • Tifosi do dot decide who is going to drive for “la rossa”… Tifosi, Italy in fact, support Ferrari and they will support anybody driving the car. Beating a Ferrari driver is under no circumstance a handicap to join the team (remember Arnoux, Prost)

    Every true F1 fan wants to see Alonso in a car that can fight for the championchip, and Fernando will find a team simply because nobody can afford to let a champion of this caliber out of the game. Only unfair Hamilton’s fans want Fernando to be “punished” because he is a real threat to the young british driver… One must be blind not to realise that if Mclaren is 45points behind their 2007 score it is because Alonso is not in the team. Lewis is only 12 points behind schedule so the 33 other points comes from the fact Heikki is not delivering the goods. I aleady believe that McLaren will not be champion this year (but Lewis is and will be in the fight for the driver’s title until the end!)

    For Kimi I guess “Nico” is right. I am no close friend to the finn but I have the feeling the man is already fed up with Formula 1’s environment. I hope he will entertain us (on the track) for many years but I don’t think this is going to happen…

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