No one has started more Grands Prix than 2007 Formula 1 champion Kimi Räikkönen, and the enigmatic Finn has decided to stop adding to that record at the conclusion of 2021.
Raikkonen, the series' 2007 champion, made the announcement earlier today that he will be retiring from F1 at season's end.
Räikkönen has started 341 Formula 1 races since debuting in 2001, winning 21 of them, and has finished on the podium 103 times. His ferocious raw pace was best seen during his early years, with McLaren, famously winning the 2005 Japanese GP from 17th on the grid with a stunning last lap pass. But the title remained elusive, often due to mechanical failures, robbing Räikkönen of several victories.
He finally claimed the World Championship in 2007, upon switching from McLaren to Ferrari, but that proved the high point.
Räikkönen spent two years out of Formula 1 in 2010-11, even making starts in the NASCAR Xfinity and NASCAR Truck Series, and while he ultimately returned to the championship in 2012, he was never able to fight for the title, adding just three wins to his record, most recently with Ferrari in 2018 at Austin, Texas.
Räikkönen, 42 next month, has spent the last three years at the Alfa Romeo-branded Sauber outfit at which his career began in 2001, merely scrapping for points. He has scored only six in the last two seasons. He has for months been thought unlikely to stay on in Formula 1 for 2022, when widely overhauled regulations will be introduced.
His laid-back taciturn personality, and complete intolerance for the extracurricular activities involved in Formula 1, earned him a legion of fans, as well as the nickname "Iceman." He is famed for his bluntness and monosyllabic tone with sponsors and the media though can be an eloquent and insightful personality when engaged on the right subject.
Nevertheless no one expects Räikkönen to become one of a litany of ex-drivers in the paddock wandering around with a TV mic. Famed for his lifestyle, and penchant for a good time, he once walked straight onto a yacht in Monaco’s harbor when his car broke down in a race, rather than return to the paddock. But he has mellowed in recent years with the birth of children Robin and Rianna, and marriage to wife Minttu. Fiercely private, he even opened up in recent years, creating an Instagram account, and it was on that platform that he conveyed news of his impending retirement.
“This is it,” Räikkönen wrote in a post on Wednesday.
“This will be my last season in Formula 1. This is a decision I did during last winter. It was not an easy decision but after this season it is time for new things. Even though the season is still on, I want to thank my family, all my teams, everyone involved in my racing career, and especially all of you great fans that have been rooting for me all this time. Formula 1 might come to an end but for me there is a lot more in life that I want to experience and enjoy. See you around after all of this. Sincerely, Kimi.”
Räikkönen’s departure opens a vacancy at Alfa Romeo for 2022 and a seat likely to be filled by compatriot Valtteri Bottas. That paves the way for Mercedes to promote George Russell to partner World Champion Lewis Hamilton.
Alfa Romeo’s other seat is filled by Ferrari-linked Antonio Giovinazzi but his future remains uncertain. Giovinazzi has raced for Alfa Romeo since 2019 but has only occasionally reached the points.
Russell’s impending promotion to Mercedes will open a vacancy at Williams, alongside Nicholas Latifi, with ex-Red Bull racer Alexander Albon thought to be a viable contender.