Formula One 2012: Kimi Raikkonen – The return of the Iceman
By Berthold Bouman
The 2012 season saw the return of the Iceman, Kimi Raikkonen, who had been lured out of retirement by the Lotus F1 team, who made the Finn an offer he could not refuse.
Raikkonen retired in 2009 after his last season with Ferrari and made way for Fernando Alonso, and at the time many already thought his retirement came about too soon. Raikkonen spent two seasons in the Rally World Championship with Citroen, had his successes, but also crashed many times in true Raikkonen style.
His fans were elated with his return to Formula One, and being a man of few words, Raikkonen let the racing do the talking. The 33-year old driver had a slow start in the season, he qualified in 17th place for the Australian Grand Prix, but finished in seventh place, grabbing the first 6 points of the season.
After the Malaysian and Chinese Grand Prix, where he finished fifth and 14th respectively, the Finn was ready for a podium place, and in Bahrain the Iceman finished in second place, just 3.3 seconds behind winner Vettel.
“Of course I wanted to win and would have been much happier in myself if I had won, but nevertheless the team deserved what they got and hopefully we can put ourselves in this position more often,” Raikkonen said after the race, adding, “We had the car already in the first three races to be up there, but we made some small mistakes and it cost us too much. Today wasn’t far away.”
To prove it wasn’t just a lucky strike, he took third place at the Circuit de Cataluya, the scene of the Spanish Grand Prix, surprisingly won by Williams driver Pastor Maldonado. Next was Monaco, wearing a replica of James Hunt’s helmet, he finished ninth, as he was struggling to get his tyres at the right temperature.
Kimi Raikkonen wins the 2012 Abu Dhabi GP
Another problem the Finn encountered was the steering system, but Lotus soon improved it and when it was more to the liking of Raikkonen he started to score podium places again. He was second during the European Grand Prix, third in Germany, second again in Hungary, and third at Spa-Francorchamps.
By then, Raikkonen was in third place of the Drivers’ Championship, and a race win was imminent. “Twice now we’ve come close and I’m sure we can make that last step. Unfortunately you’re not always going to be able to challenge for the win, and if you get the chance you have to take it because it’s not every race that you will have the opportunity to go for it,” Raikkonen said.
After the Italian Grand Prix came the so-called fly-away races, Singapore, Japan, Korea, India and Abu Dhabi. But it was in Abu Dhabi where Raikkonen gave Lotus the much desired win, the last win Lotus scored was in 1986, with Ayrton Senna behind the wheel. It was a somewhat chaotic race at the famous Yas Marina circuit, but Raikkonen made good use of the two Safety Car periods and won the race.
“I’m very happy for the team, and for myself also. You never know what’s going to happen during the race; the safety cars made it quite tricky, but I’ve had similar races many, many times this year. Perhaps we were not the fastest at the end, but we were quick enough and consistent enough to win so it’s great for the team,” said the happy winner.
But sadly, despite his win, Raikkonen was by then no longer in contention for the 2012 Formula One crown, and during the next two races in Austin and Interlagos he scored sixth and tenth place and he finished the season in third place with 207 points in the bag, and his Lotus team took fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Lotus Team Principal Eric Boullier said about the 2012 season, “The conclusion of the championship is good; fourth was our target and we’ve achieved that by a considerable margin. On top of that we’ve been fighting with the leading teams right to the end of the year. For Kimi to take third in the Drivers’ Championship is a really great achievement after being away for two years and a testament not only to the car we gave him, but to the team for their support.”
And he further commented, “We scored our first win with the Lotus name and achieved a good number of podiums over the year, so overall it’s been a very good season. I can only thank everyone at Enstone and everyone at Renault; I’m very proud to be a part of this effort. Our progress is very promising for next year. With the continuity and stability we have I’m sure we’ll be fighting for podiums again in 2013.”
In 2012 Raikkonen once again confirmed he’s a very special driver, his return was a huge success, he made name and fame again with his messages on the team radio. One of the greatest in Formula One, not very talkative, but that makes Raikkonen the man he is, and the fans love him for it.
Photos: Lotus F1