Daniel Suarez warns Kimi Raikkonen of NASCAR’s ‘aggressive’ racing

Michelle Foster
Kimi Raikkonen smiling ahead of his last F1 race. Abu Dhabi December 2021

Kimi Raikkonen smiling ahead of his last F1 race.

Daniel Suarez has warned Kimi Raikkonen he will face “aggressive” rivals at Watkins Glen, with the NASCAR series having a different take on racing to what he is used to in Formula 1.

Raikkonen walked away from Formula 1 at the end of last season, but it did not take long for the racing bug to bite again with the 2007 F1 World Champion announcing he will be doing a one-off appearance in the Cup Series for Trackhouse’s Project 91.

The Finn has already been in action, putting a Chevrolet Camaro through its paces during a driver orientation test at Virginia International Raceway road course.

But while he got to know what the car is “somewhat doing” as he put it, Suarez has warned nothing can prepare him for the “aggressive” racing he will be up against this weekend.

“I think he’ll be fast,” the NASCAR race winner told Motorsport.com. “The speed is there, and the racing part will be a process because it doesn’t matter how much you practice in the simulator, doesn’t matter how many tests you do, the racing part is the racing part.

“It’s different and he doesn’t know all these drivers. He doesn’t know how they race, he doesn’t know how aggressive they are, so that part will take a little bit.

“You can bring the best driver in the world and it would take some time in the racing part. I think [as far as] the speed, I think he’ll be good.”

NASCAR has a very different take on contact to Formula 1, with the American series considering it to be part of racing.

Suarez, who will be one of Raikkonen’s two team-mates for the Watkins Glen race, was present during the 42-year-old’s orientation but admits most of his learning will be done as he goes along in Sunday’s race.

“Racing, restarts, taking care of your tyres, taking care of your brakes, pit-stops…that part of the racing is what it takes to win races,” said the 30-year-old.

“That’s the part I feel like will be a process for him, just because he has never done it before.

“That said, he did pit-stop practice a couple of days ago and did well. There was a couple of things he was doing and I told him ‘hey, you need to do this this way, you need to do this different, because the transmission works this way and you have to use your blower’.

“I tried to guide him as much as I can, and I really feel he is trying to prepare himself as good as he can. If I was to do a race in Europe one day, I wish I could prepare myself the way he’s doing it.”

But while the orientation day was about Raikkonen learning, Suarez says he also learned a thing or two.

“It was good,” he said. “I felt like Kimi….I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can from him because he’s an amazing race car driver.

“I believe a race car driver is great not just because of driving, I think it’s just everything else around him. How he thinks and how open or closed minded he or she is.

“And in this case he’s having a great time, and he’s not just here to have fun but he’s here to be a competitor and wants to do well.

“So it’s been a lot of fun to work with him the last few days and I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do.”