Kimi Raikkonen to retire from F1 at the end of this season
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LONDON - Kimi Raikkonen, the Finnish 'Iceman' who won the 2007 Formula One world championship for Ferrari, announced on Wednesday that he would retire at the end of the season after a record run in the sport.
The 41-year-old is currently racing for the Swiss-based Alfa Romeo team and his departure opens up a seat, with compatriot Valtteri Bottas strongly tipped to take it if he leaves Mercedes.
Raikkonen is the oldest driver on the starting grid and holds the all-time record for most race starts, with 341 so far from 344 grands prix attended.
"This is it. This will be my last season in Formula One. This is a decision I did during last winter," Raikkonen said in an Instagram post to his 2.4 million followers.
"It was not an easy decision but after this season it is time for new things... Formula One might come to an end for me but there is a lot more in life that I want to experience and enjoy," he added.
Raikkonen, a blunt fan favourite whose love of racing is matched by his dislike of media duties and the corporate side of the sport, made his F1 debut in 2001 with Sauber, the team that now races as Alfa.
He was so inexperienced in single-seater racing that the team had to convince the governing body to give him a super-licence.
He moved to McLaren in 2002, winning for the first time in Malaysia in 2003 and being dubbed 'Iceman' by team boss Ron Dennis for his calmness under pressure. He now has the word tattooed on his forearm.
Raikkonen then joined Ferrari in 2007 as replacement for seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher.
His title success remains the last championship for a Ferrari driver and came when the Finn pipped McLaren's then-rookie Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso by a single point after winning three of the final four races.
Raikkonen left the sport at the end of 2009 but returned in 2012 with Lotus, with whom he won two races before his second stint at Ferrari from 2014-2018.
His last win was at the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, in 2018 and his contract was due to expire at the end of the year. He will be 42 in October.
"Kimi is an incredible part of our sport, a personal friend and a true champion," said former Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali, who now runs Formula One as chief executive.
"I had the privilege of working with him at Ferrari and know the fantastic person he is. We will all miss him and his unique style and wish him and his family the best for the future." (Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Clare Fallon)