Kevin Garside: Throwback Kimi Raikkonen keeps it simple in a style Stirling Moss would be proud of

The Way I See It: Favourite tales include the one from the Mayfair lap-dancing club

There was much coughing and spluttering in Formula One and beyond last week when Stirling Moss expressed the view that he would rather not be portrayed on film by a homosexual male. Dipping into the parlance of a bygone age, Moss used the word "poofter", which crashed about the chattering classes like a bovver boy at a home counties garden party.

Moss was the alpha male of 1950s Britain, a diminutive bundle of post-war machismo whose principal interest each day was to drive cars fast and cover as many women, or "birds", as his libido would allow. Moss was a child of his time, a marvellously uncomplicated figure who followed uncritically the promptings of his instinctive drives in a culture that shamelessly codified women as domestic appliances in suspender belts.

Mercifully the world has moved on. There is one, however, who in some aspects of human behaviour, as it pertains to Formula One at least, still inhabits the Moss milieu. That is not to say Kimi Raikkonen alerts his wife to her marital responsibilities with a club around the head, only that he brings to the business of grand prix racing the same unfettered joie de vivre that Moss did. Raikkonen is a racing driver at grand prix weekends. In between he lives a life a little calmer perhaps than he did in his twenties, but nevertheless he is a million miles removed from the polished corporate jockey demanded by today's teams.

His reluctance to play the corporate game, or "b******t" as he refers to this aspect of modern Formula One, explains in large part why he left Ferrari and the sport for two years to try his hand at rallying, a far more relaxed environment in which to indulge his speed fix. He was, and perhaps still is, a nightmare for paddock reporters seeking a point of view to enliven a dull day. But the bulletins between races more than made up for that, keeping his minders at Sauber and particularly McLaren's nanny state on their toes.

Favourites include the tales from a Mayfair lap-dancing club, where he once broke into a strip of his own, powerboat-racing dressed as a gorilla while using the pseudonym James Hunt, or falling drunk off the deck of a yacht during a mid-summer festival on a Finnish lake. All of which had McLaren's rather stiff ownership choking on their ironed cornflakes.

Raikkonen was catapulted into the sport by Sauber, who were persuaded to give the 21-year-old tearaway from Espoo a go after just 17 outings in single-seaters in British Formula Renault. My first encounter with him came 12 years ago in Malaysia, his second race in Formula One. The interview was conducted between practice sessions in an air-conditioned office in the Sepang paddock. He gave me nothing, save for a few grunts between spoonfuls of gruel knocked up especially for him. It was 40 degrees centigrade outside but that did not stop Raikkonen insisting on his favourite breakfast delicacy.

There is only so much you can do with "we have to wait and see". I was rescued by Finland's revered pit lane reporter Heikki Kulta, who spilled the beans about Raikkonen's less than propitious upbringing in Espoo, where he began life the son of a steamroller driver who opted to invest in a kart for his boy rather than an inside toilet for their rundown home. Good decision, boss. Raikkonen continues to speak in t-shirt slogans. "I told you the car was good," was his latest offering after taking the chequered flag in Albert Park, a rather more polite expression of Finnish delight than the instruction he gave en route to victory in Abu Dhabi last year: "Leave me alone, I know what I'm doing."

So much of Formula One reduces to numbers. The mathematicians churn out impossible algorithms that yield predictions for every eventuality. But it is the driver who must intuit the car's performance, must somehow make the data he imbibes through the senses line up with the science. Biology tells us that the frontal lobes of the brain control and govern creative impulses. The research is sketchy since it operates on the frontiers of knowledge, nevertheless it suggests that at some point down the line medics will be able to classify the relationship between mind and body that has fascinated thinkers down the ages. This cannot come soon enough for the world of sport, where we suffer all manner of cod explanations or the terminally dull reductions of psychologists parroting on about visualisation and goals.

It is almost pointless asking Raikkonen to deconstruct his gifts. He just fires up the engine and gets on with it. That will have to do until the time comes when we can saw off the top of a man's head, peer into his cranium and see for ourselves what is going on in the mind of an athlete on top of his game.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test