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Kimi Raikkonen inspecting his new race car. (Image Credit: TrackHouse Racing).
Kimi Raikkonen inspecting his new race car. (Image Credit: TrackHouse Racing).

Raikkonen to make comeback and postpone retirement

The 2007 F1 champion is returning to racing just eight months into retirement 

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Former Formula 1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen is set to make a sensational return to motorsport, only eight months after hanging up his helmet at the end of last year. 

Kimi Raikkonen inspecting his new race car. (Image Credit: Trackhouse Racing).
Kimi Raikkonen inspecting his new race car. (Image Credit: TrackHouse Racing).

However, rather than returning to F1, the Iceman is now set to make a shock comeback in NASCAR, a series he first competed in during 2011. 

From this weekend, the Finn will race for TrackHouse Racing as part of ‘Project91,’ an initiative started by ex-NASCAR driver Justin Marks, to raise the sport’s profile by recruiting drivers from other formulas. 

While the team has looked competitive so far this year, Raikkonen told the Associated Press ahead of his Watkins Glen debut, that Marks has given him no guarantees on being 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,” he added. “And so I trusted what he was saying and they’ve been doing pretty well. In NASCAR, it can easily happen.”

Raikkonen’s racing comeback

News of Raikkonen’s racing return will come as welcome news to fans of the flying Finn, who racked up 21 wins, 103 podiums and a world championship in F1. 

Additionally, as recently as last week, Raikkonen was named Sauber’s best-ever driver by one of its long-serving engineers, reflecting the high-esteem in which he’s held there. 

However, the Iceman may be best known for his single-seater exploits, but he also has a history of leaving such series to dabble in other disciplines when things aren’t going his way. 

Having been dropped by Ferrari at the end of the 2009 F1 season, Raikkonen moved over to race in WRC for two years, before returning with the rebranded Lotus team in 2012. 

Following a less-than-glorious end to his trophy-laden career, which saw the Finn finish the 2021 season with just ten points, he arguably ducked out at a similarly-opportune moment at the end of 2021.

In fact, this came up in his first NASCAR press conference, with Raikkonen taking what could be seen as a sly dig at the competitiveness of F1. 

But he also emphasised that the introduction of NASCAR’s ‘Gen-7’ race car, which is designed to bring downforce, transmission and cost advantages over its predecessor, could help level the playing field and improve his chances of winning.

“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,” added Raikkonen. “It’s still a learning phase for all teams with the new car.”

TrackHouse Racing's 2022 NASCAR. Image Credit: TrackHouse Racing.
TrackHouse Racing’s 2022 NASCAR challenger. Image Credit: TrackHouse Racing.
Can Kimi compete straight away?

As is the case in any motorsport, success isn’t just dependent on the skill of the driver, but their ability to get the most out of their machinery. 

Although TrackHouse Racing only started racing earlier this year, after Marks bought over his former team Chip Ganassi Racing in June 2021, it has already picked up some respectable results. 

In the hands of its other driver, Ross Chastain, the outfit’s car has so far managed to score three wins and seven podiums, meaning that Raikkonen could be competitive straight away. 

That said, the Finn’s experience primarily revolves around single-seater racing, and his NASCAR appearances in 2011 were limited to one-off showings in the Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series. 

So, how well will Raikkonen fair? According to Marks, this was almost a secondary consideration when signing him up, as whether or not he succeeds, his presence in the sport furthers the aims of Project91.

“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,” explained Marks. 

“The genesis of Project91 was just my desire as a race fan to see cool things happen in racing,” he added. “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.”

Featured Image Credit: TrackHouse Racing.

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