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Race wins may not be enough for Raikkonen


Kimi Raikkonen knows only too well that it takes more than winning races to be Formula One champion.

By Alan Baldwin, Reuters

The Finn, who stepped into the shoes of now-retired seven times champion Michael Schumacher at Ferrari this season, is the third man in this season's three-way battle down to the wire for the title.

Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix will be the second time in his career that he has entered the season-ending race with a chance of becoming champion and he could end up disappointed once again.

Raikkonen, who celebrated his 28th birthday on Wednesday, is seven points adrift of McLaren's championship leader Lewis Hamilton and three behind the Briton's double world champion team mate Fernando Alonso.

Yet the Finn has won more races (five) than any driver this season and even another victory at Interlagos on Sunday might not be enough.

If that happens, it would not be the first time that the 'Iceman' -- one of the paddock's free spirits whose monosyllabic replies to reporters' questioning masks an old-style racing mentality -- has failed to translate individual wins into overall success.

Raikkonen won as many races (seven) as Alonso in 2005 but still ended the season 21 points adrift of the Renault driver.

In 2003, when Schumacher won the championship and he was at McLaren, Raikkonen missed out on the title by just two points and despite having only one win to the German's six.

"We don't have much to lose and I think we will treat it more like a normal race," he said of Sunday's showdown. "Maybe we will need to do something during the race, but we won't do anything crazy because it probably won't work out."

PARTY ANIMAL

Away from the racetrack, Raikkonen is an altogether different character. His party antics made headlines when he was at McLaren and the move to the Italian glamour team does not appear to have cramped his style.

"If other people don't like what I do, I can't change them. And I like doing what I'm doing, so why stop? I'm not going to stop doing something just because some people don't like it," he told Britain's Autosport magazine in August.

"The driving. That's the only thing I love about Formula One," he continued.

"If I had to deal with everything else in F1, then I would stop. But the driving makes me want to keep going."

Raikkonen has always done his talking on the track, from his debut with Sauber in 2001 when he was so inexperienced that many questioned the wisdom of granting him a superlicence.

The Finn soon silenced the critics by scoring a point straight out and signing for McLaren before the end of the year.

He is still having fun. Last August, he and two friends dressed up in gorilla suits to take part in a powerboat race in the Finnish port of Hanko.

Before the start of the season he entered and won a snowmobile race in his homeland under the name of James Hunt, the late British Formula One champion renowned for his wild and hard-drinking playboy lifestyle.

"The organisers just wanted a name for the entry list and it made my life a bit easier to keep it a secret," he told Autosport.

"You know how the newspapers always complain about my life? We laughed about it. My life would definitely have been much easier racing with those guys in the 1970s. I was definitely born in the wrong era."


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