Abu Dhabi 2012, lap 22. Lotus-Renault’s race engineer, Simon Rennie, crackled to life in the ears of the race leader, Kimi Raikkonen. “Okay Kimi, the next car behind you is Alonso,” Rennie said. No answer. “Alonso is five seconds behind you,” Rennie said again, hoping to draw a response from the Finn. Again, silence. So Rennie gave it one more shot. Today, he is perhaps the only one wishing he hadn’t.
“Five seconds Kimi, five seconds,” he said, praying to drive his point — the gap between Raikkonen and second-placed Fernando Alonso — home. Still, silence. “I’ll keep you updated on the gap. I’ll keep you updated on the pace. I’ll keep...” Unable to take any more of it, Raikkonen cut in. “Just leave me alone,” he said. “I know what I’m doing.”
The rest is Youtube history.
That day at the Yas Marina Circuit, Raikkonen clearly knew what he was doing. To clinch the top step of the podium, he pulled past the chequered flag with a 0.8s lead over Alonso’s Ferrari. It was his first win after making a long awaited comeback to the sport earlier that season. But right until the very end, he wasn’t left alone.
Just 20 laps before the end, Rennie’s voice had filled the space between Raikkonen’s ears. The race engineer said: “Okay Kimi, we need to keep working all four tyres, please. all four....”
“Yes, yes, yes, yes. I’m doing that all the time. You don’t have to remind me every 10 seconds.”
Even if the advice didn’t, the win clearly meant a lot to Raikkonen. For when Maamme, the Finnish national anthem, played at the presentation ceremony, Raikkonen was found blinking back a tear. A rare melting moment for a man who has ‘Iceman’ tattooed on his left forearm.
Looking to tap into this raw show of emotion, David Coulthard, Raikkonen’s former McLaren teammate turned TV pundit, asked the victor what the triumph meant to him. “Your first victory since the Belgian GP in 2009. What emotions are you feeling right now?” asked Coulthard. Raikkonen, hugging his trophy and moist-eyed, shrugged and said: “Not much.”
There is perhaps no other driver in current day Formula 1 who makes his utterances as remarkable as the thrill of winning itself. It’s funny, considering that the less Raikkonen speaks, the more enthralled his followers are. It’s the same with the press. It happened at the Buddh