323 times Kimi
Today’s Eifel Grand Prix will mark the 323rd race start by Kimi Räikkönen who, in doing so, will become the sole holder of the lead in this particular category, overtaking Rubens Barrichello at 322.
Much has been said and written already about this milestone, but on this occasion, we chose to speak with some of the Formula One people who know him best and ask them for a few thoughts on Kimi Räikkönen, the man.
Frédéric Vasseur, Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN Team Principal
To set the record of race starts is an incredible achievement and we are all proud of Kimi. On behalf of the team, I want to thank him for the incredible contribution he has made to develop our team over the last few years and to be part of our Formula One story. He may look calm and collected from the outside, a real Iceman, but Kimi’s commitment, determination and passion for what he does are clear to all of us within the team. I think listening to his team radio on race days is enough to realise it! We are happy to be around him on this day and we’re proud of his career, which began in this very team 20 years ago. Congratulations!
Peter Sauber, first team principal at Sauber in 2001
323 race starts are nice, but numbers are not so important. What is important for me is that Kimi still has the same charisma that made me sign him 20 years ago.
Beat Zehnder, Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN Sporting Director
It’s probably pointless to ask Kimi how he feels about this milestone, as the answer would be quite obvious! The record of race starts is only a number, of course, but it’s a huge one, it’s a world record and he can be proud of what he has achieved over the last two decades. He has given so much to the world of F1 and, unlike so many others, he has never changed who he is: he is still straightforward, still brutally honest and that’s what makes him special. His career is outstanding and we all congratulate him on this day.
Mark Arnall, Trainer
I’ve been privileged to have worked with two F1 World Champions but to be part from the (almost) start, to the (not quite yet) end of one’s career is something few have had the opportunity to experience. How would I sum Kimi up? He’s ultra-competitive, just has a desire to win (but in fair way), has one of the biggest hearts, which I’ve seen come out in so many ways it could honestly bring tears to anyone’s eyes. He’s honest in a zero-bullshit sort of way, what you see really is what you get, and he has a great sense of humour (which I’m happy to see come out on Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN’s social media channels, his exploding egg story had me in stitches). As well as working with him for so many years he is also my friend, and a true friend, the type you know will always be there if the sh*te hits the spinning thing.
There will always be ups and downs in life but when working with athletes there can be quite extreme moments of euphoria (in achieving your ultimate goals) and really low points where everything seems to go against you. I’ve experienced both extremes with Kimi. It’s humbling (and important) to experience both sides of that equation. Only by going through the deepest lows can you truly value what it means to achieve the ultimate highs. Kimi has a strength of character that is quite exceptional to deal with the lows and move on. He is also pretty good at celebrating the highs 😉.
I never really thought his career would last this long (actually I thought it would be much shorter), but I always thought he’d be a World Champion, he was just too fast and had too much talent not to be. I also couldn’t imagine the fearless young lunatic I started working with ever having kids and settling down but seeing him as a dad is also incredible.
Let’s see how many races he ends up completing in his career (I still have more 😉) but it’s been an incredible experience being part of the journey!
Antonio Giovinazzi, Team-mate
Kimi is a legend of this sport and I am happy and proud to be his team-mate. Every year everyone believes this will be his last year, but in the end he always surprises us with staying one more season. I am very happy about the relationship we have and how we work together. I think he’s always been a fair competitor and we never had any issue with each other. As a rookie with a World Champion team-mate, I have learnt a lot from him in the last two years and also when we worked together at Ferrari: he’s always been open to help me and to discuss things together. Congratulations for this milestone!
Sami Visa, Affairs Manager
I have known Kimi since about 1996, when he was a young and very talented and determined k-kart driver. He may not be the youngest anymore, but has always had the passion and talent for racing and competing. We have been friends since then and for last five and a half years I have also been working for him, more or less 24/7. Kimi is and has always been reliable, fair, kind, open, modest, straightforward (hates bullshit and dishonesty), quick-tempered and sometimes stubborn family man. Being friends and working for him and his lovely family is never boring and I enjoy it a lot. Congrats mate!
Julien Simon-Chautemps, Race Engineer
I have worked with Kimi as his race engineer for the last two years, but I also worked with him at Lotus when he was there. I have known him for nearly ten years now and we kept a little bit in touch in the meantime. He has been quite easy working with him from the beginning. We get along really well, he is very straightforward man and there are no grey areas with him. He knows exactly what he needs and what he wants to do and that makes our life a lot easier. He could be a very good race engineer, actually, and sometimes that makes my life easier, sometimes a little bit less so! But he’s a really good guy, a very quick driver, extremely good in knowing what the cars needs and what he needs to do to make it go fast, so that’s what is important. He’s a great asset for the team.
Toni Vilander, racing driver, TV commentator and friend
It’s incredible to be talking about such a crazy number of Grands Prix! I still remember like yesterday the first day Kimi had a test with Sauber in Mugello, back in 2000. We spent some fun times together before his first season, as Kimi was waiting for his Superlicence: once he got it, it was just for three or four races, but in the first GP he scored points and, from there on, the story was something special.
We don’t need to remind anyone of Kimi’s world championship title, all the wins, the pole positions and the teams he raced for – the numbers speak for themselves. I think the most amazing thing, however, is how he has touched the F1 fans by being absolutely the one and only himself. He doesn’t fit the mould of modern drivers, but he created a lot of moments that made fans fall in love with him. As a driver, one of the greatest achievements is to be chosen as the favourite amongst the fans. To be both a World Champion and a champion in the eyes of the fans is the real prize.