Iceman takes pole on wheels of fortune

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 December, 2007, 12:00am


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Formula One fans the world over were treated this year to one of the closest seasons ever, as three of the sport's top drivers battled to be crowned World Champion. The title race was taken down to the wire in the final round in Brazil, making it the first three-way last race title battle since 1986.

But cometh the hour, and cometh the 'Iceman', as Finland's Kimi Raikkonen is otherwise known. In the last race of his first season driving for Ferrari, Raikkonen stormed to victory after overtaking his main rival Lewis Hamilton at the first corner. Defending champion Fernando Alonso could only manage third place with Hamilton eventually finishing seventh. This gave Raikkonen a final points tally of 110 for the season, just one point more than both Alonso and Hamilton, but enough to show that another 'flying Finn' had arrived.

Born in 1979, in Espoo, near Helsinki, Raikkonen's road to success has been swift. He joined Formula One in 2001 and won his first race for McLaren-Mercedes in 2003. Since then he has equalled or beaten a host of records that have proven beyond doubt that he is one of the greatest drivers of the modern era.

He holds the joint record of seven wins in a season without winning the world title (2005) with four-time World Champion Alain Prost, and seven-time winner Michael Schumacher.

In the 2005 season he equalled Schumacher's record of 10 fastest laps in a season, and this year became the first Ferrari driver since Nigel Mansell in 1989 to win the championship in his debut season for the team.

Raikkonen is by no means the first Finn to make his mark on the Formula One circuit, and follows in the footsteps of Schumacher's once greatest rival, Mika Hakkinen, who was twice World Champion and one of the few drivers who could give Schumacher a run for his money. In total, Finland has seen eight drivers compete in Formula One, winning a total of four championships between them.

Raikkonen may be as cool as a Lapland winter on the track, but he lives a red-hot Ferrari lifestyle off it. He lives in Switzerland with his wife Jenni Dahlman, a Finnish model and a former Miss Scandinavia. He enjoys the odd practical joke, and recently secretly took part in a powerboat race under the pseudonym James Hunt, and arrived dressed in a gorilla suit to hide his true identity.

In March, while his rivals were preparing for the season opener, he took part in a snowmobile race in Finland, also under a pseudonym. Not surprisingly, he won the race by more than 20 seconds.

The Iceman holds another record that must add to his enjoyment of the sport: his US$50 million a year salary is the highest on the grid.