Ex­clu­sive ex­tracts from Kimi’s au­tho­rised biog­ra­phy show a dif­fer­ent side to the ret­i­cent Finn

A new book, em­a­nat­ing from Kimi’s na­tive Fin­land and now avail­able in English, sheds fresh light on the true na­ture of one of For­mula 1’s most enig­matic stars


When Kimi Räikkönen was a child, his par­ents be­came in­creas­ingly con­cerned about him. At the age of three he was mute – still yet to ut­ter a sin­gle word. When they took him to see a doc­tor, noth­ing was found to be wrong, and, in­deed, his other re­sponses were re­as­sur­ingly quick: his legs worked far faster than his tongue and soon this flaxen-haired boy had bro­ken loose.

His lack of speech and pe­cu­liar tone – the re­sult of ac­ci­den­tally fall­ing off his bike aged five and dam­ag­ing a vo­cal chord through im­pact with the han­dle­bar – is the first of many rev­e­la­tions in an ex­tra­or­di­nary new biog­ra­phy of the Ice­man. It per­haps ex­plains why, as an adult, Räikkönen has of­ten seemed so un­com­fort­able when speak­ing pub­licly, us­ing words spar­ingly when he does so.

But like so many facets of Räikkönen’s enig­matic per­son­al­ity, all is not nec­es­sar­ily as it seems. In this new biog­ra­phy, which has been writ­ten by the Fin­nish nov­el­ist and screen­writer Kari Ho­takainen, Räikkönen bares his soul in a way sel­dom glimpsed by a world des­per­ate to know what makes him tick.

While he is not a pas­sion­ate mo­tor rac­ing fan him­self, Ho­takainen has spo­ken to a host of in­di­vid­u­als who have known Kimi since he was small, and his book sheds bright light on the true na­ture of a fa­mously guarded char­ac­ter. Ho­takainen won the trust of both the Räikkönen fam­ily and Fer­rari to in­ter­view Kimi at length, both in his home and at races, gain­ing a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into the 2007 world cham­pion. The Fin­nish ver­sion of the book, The Un­known Kimi Räikkönen, was launched in the sum­mer, while the English trans­la­tion is set to go on sale in the UK on 18 Oc­to­ber. It of­fers a de­tailed nar­ra­tive of how Kimi came to promi­nence, wowed on­look­ers with his daz­zling speed and yet never lost touch with his hum­ble, work­ing-class roots de­spite spend­ing 17 years (and count­ing) in the lav­ish world of For­mula 1. Packed with hon­est ob­ser­va­tions and amus­ing anec­dotes that delve deep into Kimi’s psy­che, it re­flects on his new-found role as a fam­ily man, the un­timely death of his fa­ther and his par­tial­ity to the oc­ca­sional drink­ing ses­sion. “It’s worth not­ing,” writes Ho­takainen, “that Kimi is still keen on su­per­mar­ket beer in good com­pany”.

Over the course of many in­ter­views, Ho­takainen dis­cov­ered that there is much more to the mono­syl­labic Ice­man than meets the eye. So here F1 Rac­ing presents three se­lected ex­tracts from The Un­known Kimi Räikkönen. This is Kimi… but cer­tainly not as you’ve seen him be­fore…


Mclaren was a tough school. It was over­seen by a strict head­mas­ter, team boss Ron Den­nis. The pit garage was filled with easy-go­ing, down-to-earth blokes: race en­gi­neer Mark Slade and me­chan­ics Marc ‘Elvis’ Pri­est­ley, ‘Gearbox-philly’, Mar­cus Prosser and many other char­ac­ters with their feet on the as­phalt. And, of course, there was Mark Ar­nall, the phys­io­ther­a­pist who has stayed with Kimi to this day.

Ar­nall also func­tioned as Ron Den­nis’s grapevine. Ev­ery time Kimi did some­thing in­ap­pro­pri­ate, Ron phoned Mark to ask what had ac­tu­ally hap­pened.

In join­ing the Mclaren team, Kimi en­tered an un­pre­dictable world where the quick­est of the day could be­come the slow­est in the blink­ing of an eye when the tyres or the car fell apart. It tested the driver’s char­ac­ter, which proved strong. A team spirit was cul­ti­vated out­side the pad­dock, too, and there were times when the spirit smelt of liquor.

Kimi sits on the grey di­van and re­calls his time with Mclaren and Ron Den­nis with equa­nim­ity, though it wasn’t al­ways calm in those days. Dis­tance evens things out.

“Ron Den­nis is a con­trol freak. I sup­pose he’s that in ev­ery­thing he does. He doesn’t watch you on pur­pose, it’s just him. Ev­ery­thing has to be straight, papers and things. These days I like things to be in or­der at home, so it doesn’t look like a bomb­site. I’m sure that dates back to Ron. And

he didn’t stress me out that much; maybe he was more stressed by what I did, for ex­am­ple by a news­pa­per re­port of my par­ty­ing. I didn’t re­ally give a fly­ing fuck but I ex­pect it was harder for him.”

Fire and wa­ter, two op­po­sites with a com­mon pas­sion: the will to win. But they had to­tally dif­fer­ent ideas of leisure pur­suits and pub­lic re­la­tions. It was enough that one was a 23-year-old ras­cal from a work­ing-class fam­ily and the other a 55-year-old team boss with heavy re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. Ron had pol­ished man­ners and a sense of style; Kimi was a coun­try boy de­pen­dent on his in­stincts.

Mclaren’s spon­sors in­cluded two lux­ury brands: Swiss watch­maker TAG Heuer and Ger­man fash­ion house Hugo Boss. The lat­ter nat­u­rally wanted to clothe the driv­ers.

“How you dressed was re­ally im­por­tant dur­ing the Mclaren pe­riod. The Boss suits were re­ally aw­ful, black and shiny. Ter­ri­ble to wear. But Ron thought that ev­ery­thing had to be just so.”

Ice­man. Ron Den­nis gave this name to Kimi. It amounts to no more than half of what Kimi is, but de­fines his pro­fes­sional iden­tity ac­cu­rately: he comes from a cold cli­mate, drives fast and talks lit­tle; he doesn’t ex­plain any­thing, does his job to the best of his abil­ity, and then moves on to the next race. A lit­tle later, the role will en­tail wear­ing dark glasses ev­ery­where ex­cept in the shower.


It’s the sec­ond day of test­ing. To­day it’s Se­bas­tian’s turn to drive, and Kimi comes to the boat to eat and spend time. We or­der Thai food, Vichy wa­ter fizzes, words fly around, free­dom of speech reigns, noth­ing has been put on pa­per yet. Kimi talks, ex­ag­ger­ates, in­vents com­par­isons, waves his hands and spits out a tra­di­tional swear word here and there. He lets his hair down, colours his sto­ries, breaks off and finds a rhythm. This is how a sto­ry­teller works.

That’s not the Kimi who grunts a cou­ple of syl­la­bles to re­porters and leaves in a huff. His pub­lic im­age is rough and fuzzy and of­ten snapped through a bush. But it’s also true. Things are what they seem. He has done some wild par­ty­ing. He has thrown money around. All the same, a pub­lic im­age is also al­ways blurred, over­ex­posed and lim­ited.



And it’s no won­der: Kimi has given peo­ple plenty to talk about but hasn’t talked him­self. That’s why the dif­fer­ence be­tween the pub­lic and the pri­vate is big in his case, or to put it more pre­cisely: it’s a ravine.

The win­ter tests are true to their name; sleet sweeps across the land­scape, and it’s cold for Spain but only cool in Fin­nish terms. The team an­nounces that we won’t know un­til two o’clock if we drive to­day or not. We start killing time, which is made a lot eas­ier be­cause Fer­rari’s fa­cil­i­ties are filled with peo­ple who may have some­thing to say about Kimi.

The es­presso ma­chine gur­gles, strong cof­fee drips into small cups. A man walks past, a man so or­di­nary-look­ing that he must be ex­tra­or­di­nary. The most im­por­tant per­son in an or­gan­i­sa­tion is usu­ally the one who doesn’t make a lot of noise but who walks qui­etly in the back­ground. He is sur­rounded by an aura that says he’s above ev­ery­thing around him.

I learn that the man is Louis C. Camil­leri, chair­man of the board of Philip Mor­ris In­ter­na­tional. The to­bacco firm he rep­re­sents is Fer­rari’s main fun­der. He says that he met Kimi for the first time in 2006, in Paris, when the driver’s man­agers Dave and Steve Robert­son were ne­go­ti­at­ing the Fer­rari con­tract at Jean Todt’s home. Todt was Fer­rari’s team boss at the time.

“Kimi seemed like a smart chap. I like peo­ple who lis­ten. We’re born with two ears, two eyes but just one mouth. This fel­low uses them in the right ra­tio.”

I re­mem­ber Jean Todt talk­ing to me about the same thing us­ing dif­fer­ent words. Kimi is re­served and shy but di­rect.

Camil­leri says that he has be­come friends with the driver over the years. They’ve been to an ice hockey match in his home city of New York, and Kimi has also vis­ited his vine­yard.

“He doesn’t dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween peo­ple. He treats ev­ery­one the same, whether it’s a di­rec­tor or a cleaner. He’s emo­tion­ally in­tel­li­gent. There’s a lot of su­per­cil­ious­ness in For­mula 1, but he has none.”

Fi­nally, Camil­leri de­scribes an in­ter­est­ing de­tail about Kimi’s wed­ding: “All of a sud­den, Kimi stood up and gave a speech which he hadn’t writ­ten down. It re­ally sticks in my mem­ory – it touched me. It’s one of the most beau­ti­ful speeches I’ve ever heard. He spoke for some­thing like ten min­utes.”

Camil­leri has to go to an­other meet­ing. I thank him for the chat. Kimi, hid­den be­hind dark glasses, walks past. He dis­ap­pears into his small room to take a nap. Maybe there will be no test­ing to­day, no driv­ing.


Baar in Switzer­land at the end of April 2018. The layer of flesh over Kimi’s bones is thin and glis­tens with drops of sweat. The body has no opin­ions, or at least no one asks if it does. Phys­io­ther­a­pist Mark Ar­nall sifts through the elas­tic bands hang­ing on his arm. He’s look­ing for one that has a max­i­mum im­pact when stretched. It’s eleven o’clock; the train­ing ses­sion will last an­other hour. Kimi’s weight is cur­rently at the op­ti­mum level and he doesn’t want any more mus­cles; they are too heavy.

The two men are cur­rently work­ing on the up­per body and hands. Mark presses Kimi’s chest while the driver ex­e­cutes a move­ment with the rub­ber band, re­peat­ing it 15 times. An­other move­ment fol­lows and is re­peated 12 times.

Next, Kimi holds a five-kilo weight in each hand. He moves his hands side­ways to the front and per­forms eight rep­e­ti­tions. Af­ter a break, he lies on his back on the floor and stretches the band, rais­ing his hips at the same time. The ex­er­cise is re­peated 12 times.

Kimi is on his way to Azer­bai­jan and doesn’t spare the flesh. The Baku race is due in a week’s time. How long will this tor­ture carry on? No one knows but, at this point in time, mortifying the flesh and mak­ing car tyres squeal still seems good to Kimi. End­ing a sports ca­reer isn’t easy. The quit­ter is of­ten at the half­way stage of his or her life, or even younger. A lot has hap­pened, at least half as much is yet to come. The end is the be­gin­ning of some­thing new. It’s the start of a new life.



Some have pro­cessed their ex­pe­ri­ences into words and sen­tences, which are used at life man­age­ment sem­i­nars. We won’t see Kimi Räikkönen at man­age­ment train­ing events talk­ing about re­sources and body lan­guage. It’s quite cer­tain we won’t see him com­men­tat­ing on F1 races at the cir­cuits. He has led a tightly-sched­uled life, rush­ing from one place to the next. When he quits F1, he’ll stay put for a bit.

He was born with grease on his hands. He has the soul of a me­chanic and the physique of a mo­torist, so al­ter­na­tive mo­tor sports would be the most nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion. But noth­ing is set in stone – ex­cept he won’t miss any­thing about the job.

“It won’t be hard for me to quit this job. I’ll be re­lieved when the trav­el­ling and shit-mon­ger­ing come to an end. Driv­ing is great – I can’t say the same about any­thing else that goes with the job.”

Kimi’s voice is de­ter­mined and de­fi­ant but he doesn’t raise it. Right now, ev­ery­day life is much more event­ful than a race­track. Robin, aged three, and Rianna, aged one, de­velop at a faster pace than F1. Robin says a new word for the first time only once and it would be great to be there to catch it.

When Rianna takes her first steps, her dad may well be at the in­ter­view that fol­lows Fri­day’s free prac­tice, scratch­ing his neck and hid­ing his ir­ri­ta­tion. Kimi hasn’t yet de­cided what he’ll do af­ter the end of his ca­reer.

He only knows what he def­i­nitely won’t do.

The hard­back English trans­la­tion of The Un­known Kimi Räikkönen by Kari Ho­takainen is due to be re­leased on 18 Oc­to­ber 2018, pub­lished by Si­mon & Schus­ter UK, and priced at £20.


Kimi (left) with his el­der brother Rami (right), when they were eight and ten

Not-so-fine din­ing: Kimi tucks into a kebab at a New Year’s party in 2012

Kimi at work in the gym in April. The aim is to in­crease his fit­ness with­out putting on heavy mus­cle

Kimi with his wife Minttu (left); hav­ing fast food at Dal­las air­port in 2010 (top); and driv­ing to Sepang (be­low)

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