September 11, 2006

Goodbye Kimi and all the best at Ferrari

Kimi Raikonnen moves to Ferrari next season. Though emotionally I would have liked him to remain at McLaren, rationally the time is just right for a change. Frankly I don't know whom to support next season. I have been a hardcore McLaren fan right since I started watching Formula One way back in 2000. Mika was the star at the Silver Arrows (It was sponsered by West) then and I took an instant liking to his style. It was a fight to the last race at the Japanese Grand Prix. Unfortunately Schumi won and Mika lost the opportunity to make it a hat trick. But what stood out was a 21 yeat old kid with just 23 race events to his credit in the Sauber car. People wondered what was about him that he had to be woken up from deep slumber 20 minutes before his maiden F1 GP. Nonetheless that kid impressed me with points on debut. Welcome Kimi Raikonnen!

Mika in the meantime had a listless season in 2001 with more engine failures and technical problems. One of those moments that will probably rankle in my mind forever was at the Spanish GP when with just a few hundred metres to go on the final lap, Mika's McLaren stalls! At the end of the season, Mika announced that the next year would be his year off. Though the sabbatical shocked many, since many thought that the Finn has much more racing left in him, Mika thought it best to leave when he was still regarded as a F1 great. And who was to fill in the shoes of the Flying Finn at the McLaren stable. Enter another Flying Finn! And so partly due to friendship and mostly due to talent Kimi replaced Mika.

The next seasons saw Kimi come close to winning the championship crown in 2003 when he and Schumi were separated by 2 points and again in 2005 this time with Alonso. If it were not for the Mercedes screwups, Kimi might have well been Champion in 2005. There were brilliant driving moments in all these seasons. Many times Kimi has started from the back of the grid and landed on the podium; something I consider the hallmark of a great driver.

Readers might wonder why I am not paying tributes to Schumacher, whom almost the entire world considers to be a legend. Well he is a great driver but I have a certain emotional thing for McLaren, my first love. It was the first team I truly enjoyed watching, be it pit-stop strategy, the flair of the drivers Mika and Kimi and also the colours of the car!

Which will make it very difficult for me to support a team next season, since Kimi will move to Ferrari. But then Kimi has a better chance to be World Champion at the RedDevils than at Silver Arrows. All the best Kimi, may you make history in the sport that is F1!

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