Kimi Raikkonen is rumored to have been in trouble with police in Hungary over a matter of alcohol and sitting behind the wheel of a car. This follows other stories of the flying Finn’s night club and partying exploits.
It has echoes of an F1 tradition that we all thought had died out with the advent of the super-professional driver epitomized by Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher: the “bad boy” syndrome. In the 1950s, many drivers were renowned for their wild behavior at parties, Mike Hawthorn especially gaining a reputation for being heavily into wine, women and song. It was as though the working class lads, who suddenly found the heights of motor sport available to them, intended to make the most of their brief moments of fame. They worked hard and they played hard.
This continued into the sixties, although there were already signs of a growing professionalism that had no time for drunken high jinks. Drivers like Jim Clark and John Surtees were serious about racing and saw it as a profession rather than a bit of fun. Some, such as Graham Hill, still knew how to relax and party between races, however.
By the 1970s, advertising had upped the stakes so high that it was clear that F1 was now more of a business than a sport; the sober attitude of most drivers reflected this too. So James Hunt stands out as the last of the playboy drivers, an isolated throwback to F1′s wilder days. With his retirement, we all thought that era was gone forever.
Through the eighties and nineties we became used to the dour professionals, Prost, Senna, Schumacher, pursuing their career objectives with unwavering intensity. Flashes of humor from such as Johnny Herbert gave relief but the overall atmosphere was that this was far too serious a business to have fun in (hmmm, I think I just identified the reason for Minardi’s huge popularity).
And now Kimi Raikkonen arrives to upset all our preconceived notions. It would have to be someone like him, of course – a driver so talented that all his off track adventures can be ignored by the team manager. Oh, there might be the occasional “talking-to” in the motorhome but, when you’re paying the guy millions to drive for you, it’s not easy to lay down the law about his private life.
What Kimi does for us all is demonstrate that it’s possible to be damn good at your job and still have a good time on your days off. For too long we have believed that only the dedicated monomaniac can get to the very top of any profession. Kimi shows that, with youth, talent and energy, that doesn’t have to be true. After all, what is the point in being paid so much if you can’t live a little as a result?