Kimi bets his shirts on wins
ON TARGET FOR WIN: Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen en route for the top step of the podium at the 2012 Abu Dhabi Formula 1 GP - and (inset) the T-shirt the race produced. Image: AFP
Author: Tim Collings
LONDON, England - Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen has put his money where his mouth is by paying for 500 T-shirts emblazoned with his "Leave me alone!" race-radio message.
The now almost immortal words were broadcast during the previous Sunday's 2012 Abu Dhabi F1 GP. Now they’re being printed and prepared as gifts from the Finnish driver to his Lotus team and to mark his first victory since returning from self-imposed F1 exile.
HELD OFF ALONSO
They also signal that he is back in the winners' circle and has every intention of staying in the limelight for as long as he can - and certainly returning as a race winner.
The Finn came back to F1 in 2012 after a two-season absence and held off double World champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari at the Yas Marina circuit for his 19th F1 win.
Raikkonen's blunt radio messages to his team - including an instruction to "leave me alone" when informed of the gap to Alonso became a sensation among fans after Abu Dhabi. The Lotus driver said he was simply trying to stay focused.
"Apparently there were a few of our radio messages broadcast on TV and I think in those moments you could hear how much I just wanted to keep my head down, do my job and win the race.
“All I needed to know was the gap to the guy behind me," he added. "I think you can probably find other messages from me in the car if you search YouTube; even from my short time in Nascar."
Raikkonen was confirmed at Lotus for the coming 2013 season just before the Abu Dhabi race and the 2007 World champion believes his win showed he made the right decision.
"It's a pretty good way to show that everybody’s made the right choice," he said. "We've shown all season how good we can be and in Abu Dhabi we showed we can win.
“There is more to come, I promise."
'WE DIDN'T GIVE UP'
Raikkonen had finished on the podium six times in 2012 before winning in Abu Dhabi and believes Lotus's persistence was the key to that elusive victory.
"We didn't give up," he said. "We continued with the exhaust developments we made during practice in Korea and India and the pace was promising all weekend in Abu Dhabi."
He added that he had no intention of changing his style or approach to racing. "I've never really cared what people think - if I don't finish the next race they'll think that I'm as bad as that race.
“I'll just do my thing and, if I'm happy with what I'm doing and it's the best it can be for the team, then that's that.”
'MADE HIS MARK'
Lotus team chief Eric Boullier said he always had confidence in the Finn. "This was maybe a surprise for anyone on the outside of the team that doubted him but for everyone on the inside it was not.
"Kimi has certainly made his mark and shown that he's back in F1 and back at his best form. Having him back getting podiums and a win is great for him, great for the team and great for the fans.
“Moreover 'Leave me alone, I know what I'm doing' (radio message) has already become an F1 classic!"