Having been competing in karts since the age of ten, Kimi Raikkonen started gaining a lot of success and attention as he neared his late teens. in 1999 he came second in the European Formula Super A Championship, competed in the Formula Ford Euro Cup and won the British Formula Renault Winter series just after his 20th birthday. The following year, Kimi won seven of the ten races in the UK Formula Renault Championship, and returning to the series later in the year, added to his success by making it 13 out of 23.
In September of 2000, Peter Sauber – team boss of Sauber F1 Team – gave Kimi a test in one of his cars. Kimi impressed the shrewd Swiss team owner and the young Finn was granted further testing. After running well in Jerez and Barcelona, Kimi was handed a contract for the 2001 season, despite only having 23 official racing events under his belt. This inexperience caused concern among the top-brass, and Max Mosley was hesitant about granting Kimi a super license. However, Raikkonen was allowed to race in the seasons opening meeting in Australia, and Kimi silenced all those who doubted him and Sauber by finishing 6th and claiming a point for himself and the team. The year continued well and Kimi finished with 9 points and a lot of team bosses looking at him.
It was the boss of McLaren that won the battle though, and Kimi was about to join Ron Dennis’s family.
2002 saw Kimi join join the sharp-end of the grid in a McLaren. Quite a jump from Formula Renault, to Sauber F1 and then to McLaren, but in typical Kimi style, the Finn took everything in his stride and remained calm and cool. Replacing World Champion and fellow countryman Mika Hakkinen, Kimi had a lot of expectations on his shoulders, but the support from within McLaren and from Mika himself saw Raikkonen comfortable settle in at one of Formula One’s most prestigious teams.
Despite being plagued with engine failures all year, Kimi still managed to get a podium in his first race for the team in Australia. This was followed with a further three podiums and total tally of 24 points and finished 5th in the Drivers Championship, just one place behind his team mate, the experienced David Coulthard.
Raikkonen’s second season with McLaren started well, and he found himself on the podium 5 times in the first 6 races, taking his maiden victory in the 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix. He almost won the Brazilian Grand Prix as well, but upon replays of the incident packed race, it was determined that Giancarlo Fisichella had actually been in the lead two laps prior to a race-stopping accident. Kimi and Giancarlo swapped trophies later in the week at a test session.
Despite finishing in the points 13 times, and only retiring on 3 occasions, Kimi had to settle for second in the drivers championship, losing to Michael Schumacher in the last race at Suzuka in Japan.
A new team mate partnered Kimi in 2004 – previous Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya. Having won the last race of the year, Montoya was buoyed up about his move to McLaren, but this didn’t phase Raikkonen, who went into the season full of motivation and promise.
However, the season did start well and Kimi only managed one point from the first four races. Again, the Mercedes engine let him down at critical times and it seemed bad luck was following the young Finn around. Raikkonen could only manage 45 points throughout the year, and finished 7th in the Championship.
2005 was meant to be Kimi’s year. After finishing second in 2003, and persevering a dreadful 2004, it was hoped that all the problems of the past had been sorted and this was the year that Kimi could claim the ultimate prize. Alas, it wasn’t to be and Raikkonen was once again runner-up, this time to the all-powerful Renault of Fernando Alonso. However, the season bought many great performances from the Finn.
With a ban on tyre changes, Grands Prix took on a different task for the drivers – tyre conservation. The European Grand Prix saw Kimi crash out towards the end in spectacular style. The McLaren driver had flat-spotted his front-right, and although he could have pitted for a nw one as it was becoming a danger to continue, this would have meant Kimi losing the win to a chasing Alonso. Kimi continued, but the vibrations caused by the now irregular shaped tyre caused his suspension to fail and this pitted Kimi into a rather violent spin on the final lap, resulting in his retirement from the race and handing victory to his rival, Alonso. However, Kimi’s gutsy performance received admiration from the Paddock, even if it was deemed a little dangerous.
Raikkonen managed 6 wins in 2005, and added to his other 7 points finishes, he tallied 112 points at the season close. It wasn’t enough to win the title, but it was enough to mark Kimi out as one of the best drivers on the grid. And although he was still yet to win the elusive Championship, Raikkonen continued with the team into 2006.
With an under-performing McLaren and a resurgent Ferrari, Kimi didn’t even manage a race win in 2006, and this prompted the Finnish star to look elsewhere for a drive for 2007. With the departing Michael Schumacher, Kimi has found a new home at Ferrari, which was eventually announced late in the season, shortly after Michael decided to retire.
The started off as well as it could with a maiden victory behind the wheel of the Ferrari. It was a fine start to the campaign, but it was also clear that the McLaren was very competitive and 2007 wasn’t going to be easy. Coupled with a major overhaul of the team personnel at Ferrari, the initial success surprised everybody. The season continued to go well for the Italian team, and although team mate Felipe Massa wasn’t too far behind, Kimi kept his head down and raced well.
The season was dogged with controversy, mostly surrounding the McLaren, but involving the Ferrari squad. At the end of the year and after a hard fought campaign, it all came down to the final race. Lewis Hamilton was in the lead of the title race in only his first season, but disgruntled reigning champion Fernando Alonso in the sister car was close behind. Sitting in third and seven points adrift, Kimi wasn’t expected to take the title. But take it he did. Hamilton overcooked himself and ran off the Brazilian track early on and Fernando Alonso just couldn’t match the pace of the Ferrari’s. It was a Raikkonen victory and a long overdue World Championship.
There was confusion after the race as further controversy could have robbed Raikkonen of his prize, although the issue wasn’t directly to do with him or his team, but the had the finishing order behind the Finn been changed, it could have meant that Hamilton would have won the title. Thankfully, the result was not altered and mid-November Raikkonen finally, officially, became the champion.