Kimi Raikkonen was well-known for taking a more relaxed approach to his work as a Formula 1 driver with his persona in the media, but that should not be mistaken for laziness.
Nick Heidfeld found this out when he was partnered with a young Raikkonen at Sauber in 2001, with the Finn having skipped multiple junior categories to get placed straight into Formula 1, such was the talent he showed in Formula Renault.
While he was quickly dubbed the Iceman for his calm demeanour and his antics including going straight to a yacht after retiring from one Monaco Grand Prix, as well as grabbing an ice cream in a rain-interrupted gap in the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix, Heidfeld explained his dedication to his craft was absolute.
Nick Heidfeld refutes idea Kimi Raikkonen was lazy with training camp story
The 13-time F1 podium finisher revealed that even early on, the Finn’s training regime showcased his competitive side, one which belied his public persona – even though that was still within him.
“I have to say to Kimi: he didn’t give a damn either,” Heidfeld said in a video for Formel1.de’s YouTube channel, quoted by Motorsport-Total.
“You don’t become World Champion, not even as Kimi Räikkönen, if everything – to put it bluntly – doesn’t matter to you.
“Years ago, we were at training camps in Thailand in sweltering heat, and Kimi trained until he dropped.
“And if he didn’t perform well, made a mistake or was slower than me, that it was ‘it didn’t matter to him!’ Maybe that’s how it sometimes looks from the outside, but that’s not the case.”
And in race conditions, it was their third race together, when Heidfeld drove to a superb podium at Interlagos that made him realise the speed of the driver he was up against.
While Raikkonen eventually retired from the race, the way he was able to keep up with his more experienced team-mate during the race is what caught Heidfeld’s eye.
“Sometimes there are weekends when you get on well with the car, find the perfect set-up and drive a really good lap. And this was one of those weekends. […] I had just put in a few really good laps and looked in the rear-view mirror,” he explained.
“I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but he as a newcomer and me with a few really good laps in a car that suited me well, I thought: ‘Wow, he’s got what it takes! And that was the case for the rest of the season.”
A McLaren drive for 2002 had even been earmarked for ‘Quick Nick’, but it was the ‘Iceman’ who got the nod and promoted to a seat alongside David Coulthard after impressing team principal Ron Dennis.
“Kimi became World Champion. Not at McLaren, but it was obviously not a bad decision to put Kimi in there,” Heidfeld admitted.