Kimi Raikkonen has hit back at claims only money motivates him to keep racing in F1.
After a two-year hiatus in world rallying in the wake of his Ferrari career, the phlegmatic Finn returned to the grid with Lotus last year, winning in Abu Dhabi and finishing a surprise third in the world championship.
He also made a lot of money, raking in millions after agreeing a modest retainer with lucrative bonuses for the swathe of points he ultimately scored.
“I’ve been paid well for my work,” Raikkonen is quoted as saying by Finland’s Turun Sanomat. “It has sometimes been a lot, sometimes not so much, but if money was the only motivation, I would not be in Formula One.
“Although it has become safer, there are also high risks.”
Kimi Raikkonen has been tipped to fight for pole in Australia next month, and the world championship in 2013.
“I am quite sure Kimi will fight for the championship,” fellow Finn Mika Salo, now a commentator for the MTV3 broadcaster, said.
After two seasons in rallying, 2007 world champion Raikkonen returned to formula one with Lotus last year, finishing the championship third and winning in Abu Dhabi.
“Last year he was not able to consistently show good results all of the time, and the team made mistakes that should not be repeated,” said former Sauber and Ferrari driver Salo.
“It is clear that the Lotus has now improved. I have no doubt that, in Australia, Kimi will fight for pole position.”
Lotus is happy to let Kimi Raikkonen just be himself, owner Gerard Lopez has revealed.
En route to his first victory since returning to F1 last year, the laconic Finn told his race engineer Simon Rennie in Abu Dhabi to “Just leave me alone, I know what I’m doing.” Lopez told Finland’s Turun Sanomat newspaper: “Kimi is Kimi. It was just what he felt at that moment.
“Kimi is certainly the most honest guy in F1. That’s why so many people find him so refreshing. We don’t want our drivers to come out of a mould — they are what they are and they say what they say.
“I believe that is why Lotus is appreciated as we are. We are a natural team,” said Lopez.
Lotus memorialised Raikkonen’s radio outbursts with t-shirts and memorabilia, but the 33-year-old world champion of 2007 does not look back with any particular fondness on Abu Dhabi.
“I’d rather fight for the championship, but it didn’t happen,” he is quoted as saying.
Told how popular his Abu Dhabi radio messages were, Raikkonen added: “I just try to do my thing. It was just something that happened during the race — it wasn’t planned in advance. I’m not the biggest fan of the instructions,” he confided.
Kimi Raikkonen has split with his wife of eight years.
When a McLaren driver, the Finn married former Miss Scandinavia Jenni Dahlman in 2004. The Finnish entertainment magazine 7 Paivaa reports that they have split.
“It’s true, they have grown in different directions,” confirmed the now Lotus driver’s personal assistant Ridu Kuvaja, according to Finnish daily Ilta Sanomat.
The newspaper said Jenni moved out of their EUR 30 million home in Switzerland several weeks ago.
Broadcaster MTV3 reports that divorce could be “expensive” for Raikkonen, given his estimated fortune of more than EUR 120 million, including a portfolio of properties.
Mikko Hirvonen, the 2012 world rally championship runner up, believes countryman Kimi Raikkonen would have kept improving had he stayed in rallying.
Finn Raikkonen, F1’s 2007 world champion who has driven for top teams McLaren and Ferrari, finished the 2012 season in third place as he made his return to the sport.
In 2010 and 2011, following his split with Ferrari to make way for Fernando Alonso, the now 33-year-old opted to try his hand at world rallying.
Speaking about Raikkonen’s competitive return to F1 last year with Lotus after two seasons away, Hirvonen said: “Well, it was not really a surprise.
“This man knows how to drive F1 (cars). When I heard he was going back, I thought that if the car is good, he will survive — and Kimi did very well,” he told Turun Sanomat newspaper.
But Hirvonen thinks Raikkonen would have kept improving had he stayed in rallying.
“The results would certainly have improved, but how much would have depended on how much enthusiasm Kimi had for practicing and testing. But his pace would definitely have improved in the third season,” he added.