The otherwise silent and media-shy Kimi Raikkonen has given an in-depth interview speaking about his relationship with Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel and his desire to remain in Formula 1 beyond the 2018 season.
The Finn is known for his one-word answers during the press conference and media interaction during the race weekends. Raikkonen is very clear he is only interested in the racing aspect and not in the promotional duties a driver undertakes ahead of and post the race.
It is Raikkonen’s second stint with the Italian team with the first coming between 2007 and 2009. After that, he quit the sport and tried his hand at the World Rally Championship, before returning to F1 in 2012 with the Lotus Renault Team.
The Finn’s performances were impressive in his two years with the French manufacturer which prompted Ferrari to make a move for him to replace Felipe Massa and join Fernando Alonso. Raikkonen has now been with the team for five years and has shared driving duties with Vettel for the last four.
The two drivers have developed a great rapport between them, which has benefitted the team in their quest to catch Mercedes, who have dominated the sport for the last four years. Raikkonen is yet to win a race in his second stint with the Scuderia, but has come close on a number of occasions.
Vettel has always outperformed the Finn during their time together, but their relationship has been intact. Raikkonen even admitted that he had never bonded like he had with Vettel with any other teammate.
“It happened during his first season in Formula 1, in 2007. He was very young and I was already an expert driver. I remember I met him after a race, we started taking and we promised that sometime we would travel together to go to the Grand Prix,” Raikkonen told Italian publication La Gazzeta dello Sport. “Since then we have become friends, and our relationship is even closer now since we driver for Ferrari."
“He is straightforward and sincere as I believe I am too. He also loves normality, another thing in common with me,” the Finn said about the qualities that endeared him to the German. “There is a direct relationship between us, without secrets. I have bonded with him more than any other teammate. You won’t find other driver’s like him around.”
“Vettel’s driving style — His performance is always at high levels. He almost has no bad days, a rare quality. Therefore it is very difficult to beat him,” Raikkonen said about his teammate’s performance.
However, the 2018 season could be Raikkonen’s last as Vettel’s teammate in Ferrari with the Finnish driver in the last seven months of his deal with the Scuderia. The team are yet to offer him a new deal for 2019.
Raikkonen has indicated he wants to continue beyond 2018 and there are no signs to suggest he is slowing down with the Finn impressing in some races this season. But the final decision lies with Ferrari, who have to decide whether they continue with the veteran racer, who was the last driver to win a Drivers’ title for Ferrari in 2007 or bring in a younger driver with an eye for the future.