Why Kimi Raikkonen couldn't say no to a return to racing
As Kimi Raikkonen walked out of the paddock on Sunday night in Abu Dhabi, it was very clear that he was done with Formula 1. On Friday, Raikkonen had sat down with Autosport for what was meant to be a quick interview. We knew it would be the last we saw of Kimi Raikkonen in F1. The time off Raikkonen craved will ultimately total nine months before he makes his return to competitive racing in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen at the end of August, as announced on Thursday. Raikkonen will join up with Trackhouse Racing for the road course event at Watkins Glen, being the first signing for its ‘Project91’ initiative that looks to give major international racing drivers a taste of NASCAR. Any deal for Raikkonen return to racing was always going to have to accommodate Raikkonen’s family-first life now. The plan is to get at least one test in the next-gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 ahead of the race, as well as some simulator running, but it will generally offer Raikkonen the kind of raw racing experience he has always enjoyed the most.
Early contact was made between Raikkonen and Trackhouse owner Justin Marks towards the end of last year, but accelerated in recent weeks. Raikkonen hasn’t been that far from racing since leaving F1, retaining an interest in motorsport through his motocross team. “I think without the experience there and a few races, one in the Truck and one in Nationwide, I probably wouldn’t be that interested. Watkins Glen is an ideal track for Raikkonen to race at, given the majority of the calendar is oval-based. “We’ve got a car now that doesn’t require real specific stock car racing knowledge to make it go fast, which is why I think a guy like Kimi can come in and go fast right away, and have a real shot at doing something in that race,” said Marks, who took over Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team last year. “That’s what this car is all about, that’s what the promise of the new car is about, and that’s why we really launched Project91: the guys can come in, the ones who have always had an interest in NASCAR, and be fast right away. Justin Marks alongside Chip Ganassi at the team's launch last year
Raikkonen admitted there were opportunities for him to race earlier this year, but he was eager to take the proper time to plan out the project and his preparations. “I think it was better to wait until this race, so we can prepare for everything and at least have done the work 100% right,” he said. He may be jumping in the deep end against the NASCAR establishment in the top level of the category, but he clearly wants to give himself the best possible chance. For NASCAR, it is also a big coup, perhaps similar to what Fernando Alonso entering the Indianapolis 500 did for IndyCar back in 2017. To see him back behind the wheel is a great story, and if NASCAR can give him the buzz he wants, it may well be just the start of Kimi Raikkonen’s post-F1 racing career.
Read full article at Autosport