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A tale of two rivals - Raikkonen and Hamilton, on retirement and fame 06 Jun 2008

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari with his physio Mark Arnall (GBR).
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Preparations, Montreal, Canada, Thursday, 5 June 2008 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari talks with the media.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Preparations, Montreal, Canada, Thursday, 5 June 2008 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren with the media.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Preparations, Montreal, Canada, Thursday, 5 June 2008 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Preparations, Montreal, Canada, Thursday, 5 June 2008

While McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, the world championship leader, is getting used to the spotlight, the man who beat him to the 2007 crown, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, was showing signs on Thursday in Montreal that he may have seen enough of it.

Raikkonen spoke in depth about retirement, further fuelling media suggestions that he won’t be around in 2009 and that Fernando Alonso will take his seat at Ferrari.

“I always say that I still have a contract until the end of next year,” said the Finn. “I haven't made any decision as to whether I will keep going or not. So far, that's the last contract that I have and we will see during this year and next year what happens.

“I wouldn't stop if I thought I would miss it. For sure, I would have found something else to do, something maybe at that time I'd enjoy even more. I don't know what's going to happen after next year. I haven't made up my mind and we will see. Maybe we make the decision this year or maybe not and then we will look next year, but until then, I haven't really made any decisions so far. It's hard to say. I think I'm going to race as long as I enjoy it, I think it's the right thing for me, and then when the day comes when it's no longer fun, then for sure I stop. It can be the end of next year, it can be in four years' time. It's too early to say.”

“It's purely if I like it or not. That's the reason if I keep going or not. There are many reasons why you like Formula One or not. For sure, many people only like the driving and the rest can be something that you don't enjoy. When there are more things that you don't like, then it's time to stop.

“Everybody probably knows, I like the racing and all the other stuff is not always the best thing. I think everybody in Formula One is here because of their love of racing and driving. When there are too many things that you don't enjoy or you think that the whole thing is not what you want anymore, then it's time to go away.”

In contrast to Raikkonen, Hamilton, it seems, is just coming to terms with the fame game - and, if anything, quite enjoying it. In some ways the recent Cannes Film Festival was his coming out party.

“Cannes was one of best weekends I have had,” said the British driver. “Two things appeal to me most; films and music. I get star-struck at these things. Indiana Jones was amazing. I’m watching the film and Indiana is sat behind me. I was like, ‘No way!’ I could not believe how excited I was. I was so nervous driving up to Cannes. I was like a kid. As I was going into the theatre, I walked across the seats past Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. George said, ‘Hey Lewis, meet Harrison’. After the film Harrison (Ford) spoke to me upstairs. I’m still not sure he knew who I was.”

Returning his attentions to the track, Hamilton reflected on his first two Formula One victories in North America last year, first in Canada and then at Indianapolis in the United States Grand Prix: “It was unreal. There were huge challenges after that of course. I didn’t see everything that was going on in the background. I didn’t go home and see the papers, all the hype. All I had done was achieve my goals. My life did not seem as though it had changed, but in reality it had.

“This year I feel that I have aged a lot, a good five years in the last few months. I’m a lot wiser and making sure I make the right decisions for my life and everything else. I have the experience of last year so in a sense I know how to do it. It won’t be easy in Canada. Ferrari will be even quicker but without a doubt I feel I’m stronger and I love street circuits.

“The whole thing is now about having major responsibility, pushing the team forward, playing a major role. Last year I was just given a car. I did the best I could but there was not much the team could take from me because I didn’t have the experience. This year they are relying on me. I have the power to take them in whatever direction. Turkey felt like a win. It is great that we can fight like that.”

David Tremayne