As Kimi Raikkonen walked out of the paddock on Sunday night time in Abu Dhabi, it was very clear that he was finished with Formulation 1.
On Friday, Raikkonen had sat down with Autosport for what was meant to be a fast interview. It overran by round 10 minutes, to the shock of his Alfa Romeo PRs, as he bought a number of frustration about F1 off his chest. He known as out “pretend issues” within the collection and railed in opposition to “all types of bullshit that goes round” that he was gladly behind.
We knew it will be the final we noticed of Kimi Raikkonen in F1. However wouldn’t it be the final we noticed of him in motorsport altogether? “Very simply,” was his reply when that query was put to him. “If there’s one thing that is sensible, then why not do it? However for certain, I first have to have a while off.”
The day without work Raikkonen craved will in the end whole 9 months earlier than he makes his return to aggressive racing within the NASCAR Cup Sequence race at Watkins Glen on the finish of August, as announced on Thursday.
Raikkonen will be part of up with Trackhouse Racing for the highway course occasion at Watkins Glen, being the primary signing for its ‘Project91’ initiative that appears to offer main worldwide racing drivers a style of NASCAR. It received’t be Raikkonen’s first rodeo in NASCAR, having pushed in a single Xfinity Sequence and one Truck Sequence race again in 2011 throughout his time away from F1. However it is going to be the primary probability to see what sort of competitor post-F1 Kimi is like.
Any deal for Raikkonen return to racing was all the time going to need to accommodate Raikkonen’s family-first life now. The actual fact this can be a one-off race meant it “made sense for all of us as a household”, in response to Raikkonen. Nevertheless it additionally provided one thing very completely different that may not require tons of preparation or testing.
The plan is to get not less than one check within the next-gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 forward of the race, in addition to some simulator operating, however it can usually supply Raikkonen the sort of uncooked racing expertise he has all the time loved essentially the most.
Early contact was made between Raikkonen and Trackhouse proprietor Justin Marks in the direction of the tip of final 12 months, however accelerated in latest weeks. Marks made the journey over to go to Raikkonen and his household in Switzerland to speak him via the chance and “bought the entire thing to me nicely”, in response to the Finn, who would certainly have appreciated the human contact concerned.
Raikkonen hasn’t been that removed from racing since leaving F1, retaining an curiosity in motorsport via his motocross crew. But it didn’t fairly fulfill the competitor in him, admitting he’s “too sluggish” past a membership degree.
“Racing has all the time been good,” Raikkonen stated. “It doesn’t matter what it’s, if it’s F1 or different classes. Clearly the F1 story is behind me, and this [NASCAR chance] got here up, and it made a number of sense in a number of methods.
“I feel with out the expertise there and some races, one within the Truck and one in Nationwide, I most likely wouldn’t be that . That was clearly on an oval, that is now on a highway course. I’m trying ahead to it, to having good, shut racing, and on the highway course, possibly have some probability not less than to possibly do one thing.”
Challenge91 is all about getting within the big-name worldwide drivers to offer NASCAR a go, and has succeeded in doing precisely that by getting Raikkonen on the grid
Watkins Glen is a perfect monitor for Raikkonen to race at, given the vast majority of the calendar is oval-based. Though Raikkonen is uncertain his many years of expertise in F1 will give him a lot of an edge, given his lack of know-how of the automotive, Marks felt the next-gen mannequin launched this 12 months is far simpler for drivers to leap into.
“We’ve bought a automotive now that doesn’t require actual particular inventory automotive racing information to make it go quick, which is why I feel a man like Kimi can are available in and go quick straight away, and have an actual shot at doing one thing in that race,” stated Marks, who took over Chip Ganassi’s NASCAR team last year.
“That’s what this automotive is all about, that’s what the promise of the brand new automotive is about, and that’s why we actually launched Challenge91: the blokes can are available in, those who’ve all the time had an curiosity in NASCAR, and be quick straight away.”
Justin Marks alongside Chip Ganassi on the crew’s launch final 12 months
Photograph by: Trackhouse Racing Workforce
Raikkonen admitted there have been alternatives for him to race earlier this 12 months, however he was desperate to take the right time to plan out the mission and his preparations.
“I feel it was higher to attend till this race, so we are able to put together for all the pieces and not less than have finished the work 100% proper,” he stated. “What the end result is, no person is aware of. We’ll not less than give ourself the most effective probability that we are able to.”
He could also be leaping within the deep finish in opposition to the NASCAR institution within the prime degree of the class, however he clearly desires to offer himself the absolute best probability. Making up the numbers isn’t an choice.
For NASCAR, additionally it is a giant coup, maybe much like what Fernando Alonso getting into the Indianapolis 500 did for IndyCar again in 2017. Raikkonen’s place on the grid will certainly deliver droves of European followers to tune in to a NASCAR race for the very first time, desperate to see how he will get on and what the championship is like. Challenge91 is all about getting within the big-name worldwide drivers to offer NASCAR a go, and has succeeded in doing precisely that by getting Raikkonen on the grid.
Say Raikkonen jumps in with Trackhouse Chevy and does nicely. Say he finds that the racing pleasing as ever, and offers him the motivation to do extra. May we see him cropping up elsewhere within the close to future?
“I don’t know, no person is aware of,” he admitted. “We’ll attempt to do an excellent race there and luxuriate in it, and see what the long run brings. I’ve no different plans. That’s what I’ve proper now. We’ll go from there.”
It’s a really Raikkonen reply. However to have him again on the racing radar is nice information. His love for F1 could have waned in the direction of the tip of his time there – “I don’t actually miss the effort” is his present stance – however he stays one of many best skills of his technology to have graced motorsport.
To see him again behind the wheel is a good story, and if NASCAR may give him the thrill he desires, it might be simply the beginning of Kimi Raikkonen’s post-F1 racing profession.
Raikkonen beforehand sampled NASCAR in 2011. May his newest taster tempt him again for extra?
Photograph by: Motorsport Images