You know the man. You know his craft. And you understand what he stands for.
Not a man of too many words, in fact, not a fan of speaking much at all, here’s a guy who, in a 17-year-long stint, has become a synonym of speed.
To some, he appears a cold, even indifferent driver. Many cannot understand the “I don’t give a darn attitude.”
How can someone be so possibly aloof from all the drama and hype that surrounds the thrilling world of Formula 1 racing, they complain?
“I’m just here to drive,” responds the icy-cool Finn.
Although, it can be said for certain that underneath the silent eyes there rests an inexhaustible well of energy.
Underneath the vizor hides burning intensity. Talking is not him, though, driving fast is his second nature.
But the Kimi Raikkonen we see today, the senior figurehead at Alfa Romeo (a robust midfielder that plans to compete for podium finishes in the times ahead) was once a young boy if you recollect.
Someone who wasn’t all that famous, someone who was once merely laying the groundwork for the Iceman enigma he’d come to behold; a McLaren youngster.
And it was 15 years back in time that Kimi Raikkonen clinched what can be safely called one of the most glitzy and important wins of his career.
A driver who has 21 race wins against his name, would capture what was then only the fourth win of his career on May 22, 2005, taking his rip-roaring MP 4-19 to the top step of the iconic principality.
While there were no victories in his Sauber stint, the team that brought Kimi to Formula 1, a maiden victory would come at Malaysia in 2003, which would be followed by two sensational wins, each at Belgium and Spain, before the dazzling drive at Monte Carlo upped the Iceman persona.
So probably if you were told the 2005 win at Monaco was about as important to Kimi as is the significance of finding an oasis amid a desert then it’s not at all wrong.
This was only his fourth career triumph in 74 races
Moreover, the big win from pole position at the famous street circuit was also a reprieve of sorts in that during 2004, (the previous season) Kimi had endured 8 retirements in 18 races, including 3 DNFs right at the start.
To a young driver ever searching for stability, someone who in his maiden drive with McLaren, circa 2002, clinched a podium at Australia (P3), this was heartbreaking.
But in 2005, we saw a different Kimi Raikkonen.
A man not driving some unreliable machinery but one contesting with a strong, resolute force.
The early disappointment of another DNF at San Marino was behind him. He had his eyes set in for better things.
A sensational victory at European Grand Prix had only ignited the fire.
There was a spring of confidence in his step as he arrived at the fashionable principality. And he immediately proved a point in storming to pole position, in a flying lap clocked at 2:30:325, albeit ending just a hundredth of a second ahead of Fernando Alonso.
Remember winning was anything but easy in those days where drivers had to tackle the raging storm called Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari and a ballsy Fernando Alonso, the golden boy at Renault.
Nonetheless, as the race began, Kimi got off to a flier, steering clear of Fernando Alonso right in the mirrors of his McLaren.
But there was early pressure from the Spaniard who knew nothing about bowing out. The Raikkonen versus Alonso contest right at the front end of the grid dominated the race.
Though, by Lap 20, the pole-sitter had opened a 5-second gap to the second-placed Renault driver.
But there was no dearth of drama further down the grid
A young Narain Karthikeyan, then with Joran (powered by Toyota) had retired due to a hydraulic failure. The order of the race, though, was dictated by the frontrunner, followed by Alonso, who was in turn, followed by Fisichella, Trulli, and Webber.
A few laps later, on Lap 23, Minardi’s Christijan Albers spun his Minardi into a wall at Mirabeau and this unplanned move blocked a significant width of the track.
But it would also plunge the contest at Monaco into a collision none saw coming. Even as Red Bull’s David Coulthard managed to successfully stop his machine ending right behind the woeful Minardi, Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari rammed into the rear of DC, leading to suspension damage that proved unrepairable.
What followed immediately was the deployment of the safety cars.
Kimi Raikkonen kept chipping away
That’s precisely when a contest insofar decorated by speed brought out some strategic game-plan. Renault attempted to undercut Kimi Raikkonen and called Alonso to pit. Meanwhile, at McLaren, a different gameplan was underway all thanks to Neil Martin- the racing strategist- who asked Kimi to continue.
While on immediate thoughts, McLaren’s overcut seemed to have misfired as almost all of Kimi’s leading opponents had pitted, including the dangerous Alonso. But later, one found out that Raikkonen used the ploy to his advantage opening a big lead.
By the time the contest entered lap 42, with 36 more to go, Raikkonen had opened up a decisive 34.7-second long lead.
What an ace that was!
Kimi Raikkonen pitted and rejoined in the lead. The gap to second was still by a little over 13 seconds.
Meanwhile, Alonso found himself in a spot of bother, struggling for grip, his rear tires waning out rapidly.
In the end, no competitor proved damaging enough to curtail the brute pace of the McLaren. The Iceman took the checkered flag and collected the second win of a season where other brilliant triumphs came at Canada, Hungary, Turkey, Belgium, and Japan.
And in hindsight, if you were to reflect on it, then 2005 did prove to be a belter of a season for the laconic Finn, who grabbed 12 podiums that year, checkered by several fighting finishes, such as the Grands Prix at France and Germany.
It also suffices to say that while the Espoo-born driver has only 1 win at Monaco against his name, the triumph nonetheless lifted the graph of a driver who eventually finished second on the driver standings. Not too bad for someone who was only 25-years-old back then.