ICE, ICE BABY...
They call Kimi Raikkonen
'the Iceman'. Not because his brother is a snowman, or even because he knows exactly how much ice to put in a Red Bull cocktail. Nor is he related to Otzi the Iceman, a frozen mummy who was born in 3300 BC and found in a glacier
on the border between Italy and Austria in 1991. Otzi, who was possibly the victim of a ritual human sacrifice, is now a tourist attraction in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology and is not really going anywhere fast.
Kimi, by contrast, will be going to lots of places, very fast: 13 of them in fact, corresponding to his inaugural World Rally Championship programme this year with Red Bull and the Citroen Junior Team. It will be the first time that any former F1 World Champion has ever made the switch to rallying, particularly off the back of 18 Grand Prix wins and 62 podiums. He knows it won't be easy - but if it were easy, then surely everyone would do it?
'The Iceman' nickname refers to Kimi's coolness under pressure, his ability to make split-second decisions while holding a car on the knife-edge of control, and also his built-in native resistance to temperatures of -20 degrees Centigrade. That last quality will be particularly important this weekend on Rally Sweden, which will mark Kimi's first-ever World Championship event in a top-class car and only his sixth-ever rally of any description. It will also feel like sitting in a cryogenic freezer, or Otzi's glacier.
Driving on Rally Sweden, with its high-snowbanks and narrow flat-out stages, is a bit like attempting to ice-skate down the Cresta Run. Get it right, and the satisfaction is immense. Get it wrong, and the only consolation is becoming an instant You Tube hero.
But Kimi has been getting in some practice with the Red Bull Citroen on the Arctic Rally in Finland a couple of weeks ago, so he feels well prepared for the challenge ahead. "We still have a lot to learn, particular when it comes to setting up the car, but I am sure we can make more progress," says the 30-year-old Finn. "I'm really looking forward to this weekend; one of the reasons that rallying appeals to me is because there are so many different surfaces to master and you have to be quick on all of them. And for sure, snow is certainly one of the most specialised. This is all still very new to me, so it's all about gaining experience. But we'll get there."
Luckily, Kimi is in extremely capable hands. Not only does he have the experience of the Red Bull-backed Citroen team on his side, which has raised standards in every area from engineering to service park cuisine, but also the knowledge of his co-driver Kaj Lindstrom to fall back on: a veteran of six Swedish rallies.
"Having one practice rally behind us was very important; we've been working on the pace notes and generally making them more accurate," points out Kaj. "However, Sweden will be quite different in character from the Arctic Rally. The roads are a bit more technical; there's more going on and more information coming to the driver through the headphones. Our goal is to have a good clean run and get to the finish: hopefully we've already made all our mistakes on the Arctic Rally."
The Rally Sweden is based in the city of Karlstad, to the south of Sweden. Ironically, it's also the capital of the Varmland province: proof, if it were needed, that the locals have a very well-developed sense of humour.