Former F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen left a lot of fans wishing for more when he decided to announce his retirement from the sport at the end of last season.
Just eight months after this decision, the Iceman has decided to make a sensational return to the world of motorsport.
While this news will undoubtedly excite all Formula One enthusiasts, Kimi will not be racing for an F1 team. Rather, he has signed a deal with NASCAR, a racing series he first appeared in back in 2011.
Starting this weekend, the Finn will compete for TrackHouse Racing as part of its ‘Project91’, which has basically been designed by ex-NASCAR racer Justin Marks to enhance the sport’s reach across other racing series.
Raikkonen revealed that he has been given no guarantees by the management that he will be able to compete at the front.
“I think he came as a very honest and straightforward guy and nobody has promised any big thing,” Raikkonen said.
“The only thing we can do is do our best and hope we get a good result. You never know, any category or any racing you choose, you just never know what will happen.
“And so I trusted what he was saying and they’ve been doing pretty well. In NASCAR, it can easily happen.”
Raikkonen achieved 21 race wins and 103 podiums as well as a world championship during his time in F1.
Does Raikkonen get going when the going gets tough?
Raikkonen has been branded by some cynics as someone who calls it quits when the going gets tough.
After getting dropped by Ferrari at the end of 2009, Kimi switched over to race in the WRC for a couple of years before returning to F1 in 2012 with Lotus.
His final season in F1 was in 2021, where he finished with a paltry 10 points. Some believe he shirked responsibility even at this stage.
This was a question that came up during his first NASCAR press conference.
Raikkonen, much to the surprise of many journalists seated in the room, appeared to take a sly dig at F1 in his response.
“I think any time there’s an equal chance to win in a series it is nice, I think it’s good, and what I heard when I talked to people about the new car is that it is pretty even with everybody,” Raikkonen said.
“It’s still a learning phase for all teams with the new car.”
Just like F1, NASCAR also sees the driving skills of the candidate being just as important as their ability to get the most out of their cars.
Can we expect Kimi to challenge for wins straight away?
TrackHouse Racing may have just been set up around a year ago, but the team already has three wins and seven podiums.
It has led people to believe that Raikkonen could be competitive right from the beginning.
However, the popular racer will have to keep his expectations in check as most of his experience comes in single-seater cars and he has only made one-off entries in NASCAR.
For owner Marks, this is not the most important factor. Rather, having someone of the calibre of Kimi is what made the deal a no-brainer.
“I had to find somebody that would give immediate legitimacy to it and be interested in doing it. And to me, really quickly, it was Kimi,” Marks said.
“The genesis of Project91 was just my desire as a race fan to see cool things happen in racing.
“A Formula 1 driver coming to NASCAR and being competitive at the Cup level is a cool thing and if we were going to launch this thing, obviously we needed somebody relevant globally to set it off.”