Review: The Unknown Kimi Raikkonen

The K1 grandstand on the outside of turn 1 at Malaysia’s Sepang circuit roars to life with an all-mighty cheer. It means only one thing – Kimi Raikkonen has just driven past in his scarlet Ferrari. I know this because I am sat right in the heart of the K1 grandstand. Of all the moments that author Kari Hotakainen could have chosen to start his biography of Kimi Raikkonen it seems almost incredulous that he would choose the very race I attended in 2017.

If you follow F1 you’ll know of Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen and his approach to the sport – no bullshit, just driving. Famously reserved with the press in the racing car however is where Raikkonen has always shone and comes alive. The biography details his childhood years as an up-and-coming racer and his subsequent years in the world’s premier racing series, Formula 1. However, this isn’t as much a book about Raikkonen’s Formula 1 career than it is focused on the person. Raikkonen’s comfort zone isn’t sharing any- and everything about himself. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. And that makes this glimpse behind the curtain all the more intriguing.

If it wasn’t obvious from observing Raikkonen throughout his years in F1 in the book it’s evident that Kimi Raikkonen oozes authenticity. There’s nothing made up or manufactured about the man. Perhaps that is why he is so beloved the world over – his authenticity. What is more evident is that despite being a celebrated Formula 1 champion Raikkonen is a fairly average guy who doesn’t think himself a superstar unlike his legion of fans. Instead he is revealed as a deeply loyal friend and wholly committed family man. He also just happens to have an extraordinary talent of driving anything with wheels very quickly.

For the enigmatic Finn his family has always been the most important. “He was being offered $500,000 a year and $50,000 for every point earned. The man doing the signing came from a house with no inside lavatory. Soon there would be. He wanted to repay his mother and father, who had initiated this made it possible,” writes Hotakainen. The closeness of the Raikkonen family is unmistakable which makes the passing of his father, in late 2010, all the more poignant.  

Hotakainen’s fly-on-the-wall style of writing translates well and injects the reader into the moments being described. It reveals the rocky road to F1 and several other fascinating stories. An example being that at the age of two Kimi’s parents had him medically tested, as he hadn’t yet uttered a single word. The results revealed a child of above average ability but without any real motivation for words.

Later on he describes a 21-year-old Raikkonen’s first day testing the C19 Sauber at Mugello in Italy. “The slight young man lowers himself into Sauber’s C19 car. He faces his first test lap in a real F1 car. The young man is scared – not of driving, but of failing,” Hotakainen reminisces. “He starts the car. A terrible, ear-splitting noise follows. The first straight isn’t important; anyone can drive on a straight with their foot down…The young man turns the wheel; his neck hurts, his hands tremble. Every instance of braking and every bend pummels his body”. It is said, and written in this book, that then team owner Peter Sauber was walking on air when he saw Raikkonen’s ability. Even Michael Schumacher wanted to know who the “young and fast” driver was. The over 250 pages is full of similar moments that together fill in the picture of who Kimi Raikkonen truly is other than an F1 champion.

There will be those who would have wanted an even more in-depth portrait of Kimi Raikkonen. But there aren’t any bombshell stories or profound declarations and they aren’t missed. Instead it’s a book about a man’s life that happened to be an exceptionally fast racing driver. It is, like Kimi, an unpretentious, succinct, and deeply authentic portrait of a generous family man.

Get your copy at Raru:

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