Q:Kimi, it has been three weeks since you were confirmed as a Lotus Renault GP driver for the 2012 season. How have you found the reaction to your F1 return?
KR:I have been surprised at how big the reaction has been so I guess people must have missed me!
Q:What has been the best moment so far?
KR:Sebastian Vettel’s impersonation of me at the Autosport awards! No, seriously, my two visits to Enstone have been great. The first one, at the team’s Christmas party, made me realise how much support I have there. The second one, last week, allowed me to understand that this team has not been world champion by coincidence.
Q:Any more snowmobile races planned?
KR:I was surprised by how much attention there was over me falling off a snowmobile. You can watch what happened on YouTube and it was probably the smallest and slowest crash I’ve ever had. It is almost embarrassing!
Have you seen the final F1 Minimal Movie Poster of 2011? Red Bull Racings Christmas Vacation starring Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and Christian Horner. Designed by Russell Ford Movies on now on my profile page!
Career span: 2001-04 (Williams); 2005-06 (McLaren)
Montoya was one of the most exciting drivers to be employed by McLaren in recent years, but he never really realised his full potential after a promising start to his career. Winner of the 1998 Formula 3000 championship he moved to the USA in 199 where he won the CART Championship and was one of only two drivers – the other being Nigel Mansell – to win the CART title in his freshman year.
After also winning the Indy 500, Montoya made his F1 debut for Williams at the start of 2001, scoring his first victory in that year’s Italian GP. He would have to wait until 2003 before scaling the top spot on the podium again, winning that year’s Monaco and German races, and then rounded off his Williams career with victory in the 2004 Brazilian race before switching to McLaren for 2005 alongside Kimi Raikkonen.
Montoya quickly demonstrated to McLaren that he had what it took to compete at the highest level and, alongside Kimi, made a formidable pairing for the 2005 seasons. His wins in the British, Italian and Brazilian GPs were copybook performances, but somehow he seemed to struggle at the start of 2006 and could not quite seem to be able to produce the form he had demonstrated the previous year. He also preferred living and racing in the USA so when the opportunity for him to switch to NASCAR presented itself McLaren and Montoya went their separate ways after that year’s US GP at Indianapolis.
Career span: 2001 (Sauber); 2002-06 (McLaren); 2007-09 (Ferrari)
Kimi Räikkönen was another distinguished Flying Finn following in the McLaren wheel tracks of twice world champion Mika Häkkinen, although Kimi did not manage to emulate Mika’s achievement until he joined Ferrari after a four year spell with the Woking squad. Having graduated from karting like most of his contemporaries, Räikkönen spent just one season in Formula Renault before being head-hunted by the enterprising Sauber F1 team who shrewdly promoted the young Finn to the sport’s most senior category at the start of the 2001 campaign.
Moody, mean and motivated, Räikkönen was a formidable competitor on his day although he had to wait longer than most expected – to the 2003 Malaysian GP – before posting the first of his 18 F1 victories achieved so far. One of his most memorable victories came at Suzuka in 2005 when he brilliantly outfumbled Giancarlo Fisichella’s Renault going into the first corner of the race’s final lap to beat the bewildered Italian by just over a second. At the end of 2006 he decided to switch to Ferrari, driving brilliantly to pip Lewis Hamilton to the title crown, but this was followed by two lacklustre seasons and he left F1 at the end of 2009 to spend two years trying his luck in the World Rally Championship.
Kimi had little luck with this career detour and signed a two-year deal to return to F1 in 2012 with the Lotus-Renault squad, hoping to pick up the threads of his successful time in his heyday with McLaren and Ferrari. Time alone would tell how successful he would be.