'There isn’t any driver out there like Kimi’ says Alfa boss Vasseur as Raikkonen announces his retirement
Alfa Romeo boss Fred Vasseur says "there isn’t any driver out there like Kimi Raikkonen" after the veteran Finn announced he is to retire from Formula 1 at the end of the year.
Raikkonen began his F1 career with Sauber – who tried him out in a test that's now gone down in legend – before he made his F1 debut at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix, in which he scored a point for finishing sixth, despite having just 23 car races in junior series under his belt at the time.
After just one year with the Swiss team he moved on to McLaren, before joining Ferrari, leaving F1 for two years, returning with Lotus, then having another spell at Ferrari, before he returned to the team where it all began for him – now racing as Alfa Romeo – in 2019.
And as he confirmed he would hang up his helmet at the end of the 2021 season, the team where he began – and will finish – his F1 career were fulsome in their praise for the Finn.
"Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN would like to express all its gratitude to Kimi for the incredible seasons spent together in these two stints; for the work ethic, the passion for racing, the determination to succeed he displayed from his first test in Fiorano to last week’s session debriefs; and for being a unique character, always true to himself – something that endeared him to everyone who worked with and for him," the team said on Wednesday night.
"The team wishes Kimi all the best for an incredibly well-deserved retirement, in the knowledge that he and his family will greatly enjoy his presence at home after the final chequered flag in Abu Dhabi. In the meantime, we are looking forward to a successful conclusion of the 2021 season together, to bring such an illustrious career to the ending it deserves."
Team boss Vasseur added his own tribute to a man he reckons is unique in Grand Prix racing.
“There isn’t any driver out there like Kimi Räikkönen," he said. "His presence, his charisma and his unique attitude, matched with the innate skill that made this team give him a chance back in 2001, have made him a legend of our sport in a way which numbers and statistics struggle to convey.
"It was a pleasure to work with him in these years and I believe I speak on behalf of everyone at Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN, from the shop floor in Hinwil to the garage here in Zandvoort, when I say a driver like Kimi has written some indelible pages of our team’s, and our sport’s, history.”
Raikkonen's current team mate Antonio Giovinazzi posted a message of his own on Twitter. It read: "In the history of F1 you left a mark that few others have. I’ll always be grateful for having had the privilege of being your teammate. Thank you, Maestro."