Ferrari’s last World Champion and one of Formula 1’s most enigmatic drivers, Kimi Räikkönen, will be celebrating his 32nd birthday today.
The Finn’s F1 career started in 2001 with Sauber, where Kimi surprised everyone with his turn of pace with just 23 open-wheel races under his belt, despite obvious concerns over his lack of racing experience.
More points-scoring results during his maiden season saw Räikkönen signed to McLaren for 2002, where he proved a brilliant replacement for the retired Mika Häkkinen, taking his first race win the following year at Malaysia.
Despite failing to win again that year, he was a championship contender throughout through his sheer consistency, losing out to Michael Schumacher at the season-ending Japanese Grand Prix by just two points.
The following year saw McLaren unable to compete with the all-conquering Ferrari F2004, but he took a brilliant win at Belgium, and was again in championship contention in 2005, winning seven times but again losing out, this time to Fernando Alonso.
McLaren again went off the boil in 2006, and he joined Ferrari for 2007 as a high-profile replacement for Michael Schumacher. Despite winning his maiden race for the Scuderia, his form slipped and he was fourth in the standings – behind both McLarens and his Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa – with just six rounds to go.
From then on, he finished on the podium every time, whittling down the gap to the leaders and somehow sneaking through the clinch the crown by a single point in the season finale in Brazil.
He seemed to lose interest in 2008, and found himself being more readily put in the shade by team-mate Felipe Massa, and it was repeated in 2009 amidst much speculation that he would be shown the door before his contract ran out.
With Ferrari deciding that its future now lay with Fernando Alonso, Räikkönen exited stage left at the end of the year. By that point, Kimi wanted to get out of F1 and decided to try his hand at rallying, taking the bold decision to leap into the World Rally Championship with a Citroën Junior Team entry.
After two solid but unspectacular seasons, Kimi is now believed to be actively seeking a return to Formula 1, with the strongest rumours being that he will replace Rubens Barrichello at Williams next year…