Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Few Words, Great Expectations ; Raikkonen the Iceman Shows He's Back in the Mix after 2-Year Break

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Few Words, Great Expectations ; Raikkonen the Iceman Shows He's Back in the Mix after 2-Year Break

Article excerpt

Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen has returned to Formula One after leaving at the end of 2009 and he finds himself with a Lotus car that just might win races.

After finishing third at the Spanish Grand Prix last month, the Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion, was asked in the televised post-race press conference to discuss the race in his native language, as is the custom.

"Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers in Finland," Raikkonen said in Finnish.

There was a pause as the questioner expected more. But it became clear that the driver known as Iceman for his cold demeanor, nerves of steel and few words, had completed his statement.

Asked a few minutes later in an off-air press conference why he had said so little -- and nothing about the race at that -- he replied, "I had nothing else to say."

It was more than just typical Raikkonen. It was a defining moment of the return to Formula One of one of the series' least expressive champions, after two years' absence. But in his own way, it was a precise expression of his current sentiment: Raikkonen has returned to Formula One after leaving at the end of 2009 to take up rally racing, and he has found himself with a Lotus racing car that can win races. After small problems in the early races, he finished second in Bahrain and then third in Spain, and he felt victory at his fingertips. He has scored points in all but one race, and lies sixth in the series after seven races.

He is clearly more motivated than ever, and his frustration is palpable.

"Once you get so close, you're not happy with second," he said in Bahrain.

Raikkonen is one of the six world champions in the series this year, and one of two who took a multi-year break and then returned. But unlike Michael Schumacher, who was absent for three years before returning at age 41 two years ago, the Finn's return has already been considered a success. At age 32, he is more than 10 years younger than Schumacher, and in top condition, both mentally and physically.

When Raikkonen started in Formula One in 2001, at the Sauber team, he had raced in only 23 car races. But he had won more than half of them. …

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