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Come Back, Kimi! Or Not…

There’s been a smattering of news lately regarding Kimi Räikkönen’s plans for 2011, and last night I read on Autosport that he’s almost certainly going to be doing rally racing with Citroen again.  Obviously, people’s hopes for him coming back to F1 had already died out a while back, when the mini war of words between him and (the team formerly known as) Renault went down, so it’s not as though this news is gutting or even surprising.  More like. . .sigh-of-sadness-inducing, maybe?

But I know it really shouldn’t be.  Yes, I wanted him to come back.  A lot of other people wanted him to come back.  But on the basis of everything I’ve read since he left, it’s difficult not to conclude that he’s truly happy doing what he’s doing now.  A couple days ago I read an article about him in Motor Sport, and it just served to drive the point home.  Happy, relaxed, confident, fully acknowledging how far he has to go to do as Nature intended — beat the pants off everybody — but totally confident that he’ll get there, Kimi clearly still has a lot of unfinished business in the world of rallying.  I feel envious of WRC fans for getting to watch him take care of it.

Life is just too short to not do what makes you happy if you’re given the opportunity.  Not that I know anything about anything, but to me this seems like the difference between having a job where every morning you wake up with a sick feeling in your stomach, wondering, “What bullshit will I have to deal with today?” and having a job you actually don’t mind getting out of bed for.  Obviously, Formula 1 has its own excellent points, but I would imagine that even among that elite subset of drivers who are as talented and well compensated as Kimi, there are those who are able to put up with F1’s more trying aspects for only so long. As he is quoted as saying in the Motor Sport article,

It’s a different world [in WRC]. The people are more relaxed and friendly and I enjoy the atmosphere. F1 was was friendly, too, in its own way, and I had a good time there, but always too much politics.

“Too much politics” — I doubt there are many who would disagree with him, there.  For everyone involved, it’s probably a matter of when the scales cease to be tipped in favor of the good points.

From the standpoint of a selfish fan, I resent having missed out on most of Kimi’s F1 career.  I started following the sport at the start of the 2009 season, and he was the first driver to make a real impression on me.  This might strike some people as odd, considering how most of his 2009 season went, but it’s true.  I might not have understood a lot of what was going on as I watched the races that season, but there was something about Kimi that captured my attention.  One thing I specifically remember is the start of the Belgian Grand Prix, watching him veer off to swing his Ferrari around Rubens Barrichello and then proceed to charge up the field as though the presence of other cars on the circuit was barely worth acknowledging.

Another incident I recall very vividly was him driving through a car-engulfing wall of flame, thanks to an errant McLaren fuel hose.

At the time, I thought, “AAAAAAAAGH!  Surely he will now pull over and get out of the car and seek medical attention immediately!”  Hahahaha.  How little I understood of The Iceman, who merely continued his race as though nothing had happened.

I know that 2009 was not Kimi’s most memorable season in Formula 1, but, for whatever reason, it was memorable to me, as I was just making my first attempts at being a fan of this alien, complicated sport.  It’s people like him — personalities like his — as opaque and unorthodox as they might be considered in both F1 and the world at large, that I think are likely to capture people’s imaginations and really suck them into the sport.  Hopefully they will, as I was, be sucked so far in that they’ll be deeply lodged there by the time those people and personalities have moved on to other things.

I’m writing this on Christmas Eve, and I keep thinking about another news story I read last night.  It was reported on Motorsport.com that Kimi Räikkönen’s father has died suddenly, at the age of fifty-six.  I don’t know anything about the specific circumstances, but I do know what it’s like to lose a parent far before their time.  My thoughts are with him and his family right now.

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