The world of Formula One learned Monday that Kimi Raikkonen would not return to the series next season, but not before allowing him to bring it to an abrupt close.
With years of history, it was difficult to imagine the Ferrari driver, who turned 39 on Sunday, staying away from F1. His absence, he told reporters, had nothing to do with his new partnership with Sauber, a Swiss-based team that is lacking in exposure compared to the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes.
The Italian company has backed Raikkonen’s switch to Sauber; the sport’s second highest race-sponsor.
Raikkonen has no doubt been loyal, indeed. He has raced for Ferrari and McLaren for many of his 13 seasons in the series, winning championships at both teams. But he has also distinguished himself as one of the most combustible and charismatic drivers in Formula One.
When he turned his attention to Sauber on a one-year deal, people wondered: Would he “type” like he did in the past? The day after signing with the Swiss team, he proved it. His shot at a victory at the Canadian Grand Prix in June blew up in his face when he crashed his car on the last corner, which he banged into a barrier. As it flew across the track, Raikkonen struggled to raise his helmet-display to see what the hell was going on.
His charming off-track persona — he is understood to be a World War II history buff and wrote a blog for his last Formula One season about visiting the houses of the Wehrmacht in Dresden — leaves him little room for friends or colleagues, even friends he does not formally call.