While the news that Kimi Raikkonen was to be dropped in favour of Charles Leclerc didn’t come as too much of a surprise, certainly following the obvious mood shift over the Monza weekend, the Finn’s decision to sign a two-year deal with Sauber – the team with which he made his F1 debut in 2001 – did.
Steve Robertson, the Finn’s long-time manager, reveals that not only is Raikkonen keen to continue racing, he is seeking to help his old team improve and move further up the grid.
“Kimi wants to drive F1 cars, he loves it,” says Robertson, according to Motorsport.com. “People are surprised because having driven for Ferrari for so many years most people expected him to retire, sit on his yacht, and enjoy the rest of his life.
“But he loves driving F1 cars,” he continues, “he gets a buzz from that… Kimi loves being on the edge. If he’s not doing this he wants to ride motocross, but this is the pinnacle for him. And once we knew that it wasn’t going to happen at Ferrari, he wanted to do a deal.
“I think you have to look at the situation of Sauber as well,” he adds. “They have some backers now. Two years ago, would he have gone there when the team was hanging on? Firstly they couldn’t even have afforded him, and secondly it was a ship that was sinking. Now they’ve taken on Kimi, an A-lister in F1, a world champion, and it shows their intent, where they want to be. They could have taken a driver that brings in money. At the end of the day two parties want the same thing. He wants to help them.”
A regular visitor to the podium this year, Robertson insists that Raikkonen will not grow frustrated joining a team that does well to make it to Q2.
“Personally I don’t think that will happen,” he says. “Because at the end of the day he will work with the team to try and improve things. He knows realistically what he’s going into. He doesn’t have to do it, he does it because he feels he can help them.
“I think you have a different mind-set. I would say now the gulf to the bigger teams has widened. If you could say right now, ‘take seventh places for the next two years’ – I’d sign for it. Because that would be the absolute best.
“You’ve got to be realistic as well,” he admits, “and he’d take pride in that, to help them grow. He realises that the wins, unless it’s an absolutely freaky race, are not going to happen. But in terms of development, he’s got a lot to offer them. He knows it’s a different role from Ferrari. Kimi’s know-how, his focus on development, he can really help them to get to where they want to be in a much quicker way.”
Indeed, Robertson points to The Iceman’s time with Lotus on returning to the sport in 2012.
“People told me that they felt Kimi was the most relaxed then. I remember Eric Boullier at the time said: ‘We don’t put many demands on Kimi, we realise what makes him happy and what doesn’t, and we let him be.’
“Then he feels he can be more him. In teams like Ferrari there is more of a corporate structure there, and it’s different.”