Ex-Sauber Boss Explains the ‘Resistance’ that Kimi Raikkonen Faced to Prevent His F1 Debut

Published 05/05/2021, 12:05 PM EDT
Kimi Raikkonen, Grand Prix of France, Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, 06 July 2003. (Photo by Paul-Henri Cahier/Getty Images)


Kimi Raikkonen, at 41 years of age with 332 race starts under his belt, is not only the oldest driver on the grid but also the most experienced driver in F1 history. However, it could have all gone south for him even before his career began in 2001.

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It is a well-known fact that Peter Sauber, owner of the Sauber F1 team, unearthed a relatively unknown Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn had won the British Formula Renault winter series in 1999. So, Sauber arranged a private F1 test for him in September 2000.

He impressed them significantly; so much so that they had to keep his identity a secret to fend off potential competitors – referring to him as ‘Eskimo’ instead of his real name. After they decided to give this inexperienced driver their F1 seat.

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“Why shouldn’t you do this if you are convinced of it and you think it is right and it could be a fantastic idea? You go for it,” former Team Principal, Monisha Kaltenborn said on F1 Podcast ‘Beyond The Grid.’

Before becoming the first female Team Principal in F1 history, Monisha managed the legal affairs of the Sauber team. And there was a big hurdle that came which threatened Raikkonen’s F1 debut. Since he had just 23 races under his belt, there were some concerns to grant him the FIA super-license,

“We sensed very quickly that there was some kind of resistance in wanting to give him the license to race at that point of time. And that was not easy to convince the FIA to actually get that step done.”

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How did Sauber sort the F1 license issue out for Kimi Raikkonen?

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As we all know today, they were eventually able to deal with the issue as he currently drives for their rebrand (Alfa Romeo). So, did Monisha intervene and hold talks with the then-FIA president, Max Mosley, to get his super license?

She replied, “No, actually it wasn’t at Sauber that we personally dealt the matter. I would say we got some help from people from a team that isn’t too far from us in Switzerland. I will not take the name, but it was not too far!”

MONZA, ITALY – Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari looks on in the garage during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Very interesting indeed. Makes us wonder who was that external messiah that helped Sauber. Well, thanks to them, it eventually enabled the Finn to become a World Champion with Ferrari in 2007.

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Bharat Aggarwal

754 articles

Bharat Aggarwal is a sports analyst for EssentiallySports, covering Formula 1 and NBA. A Delhi University graduate, Bharat has multi-year experience in sports writing, having closely worked with the content strategy aspect as well. Bharat Aggarwal supports Manchester United, Lewis Hamilton, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rafael Nadal, Dirk Nowitzki, Sachin Tendulkar, Ayrton Senna, Kristaps Porzingis, and Dallas Mavericks.

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