Kimi-Matias Raikkonen (born October 17, 1979) is a Formula One race car driver.
Räikkönen was born in Espoo, Finland. He had a long line of success in karting and by the age of twenty began racing Formula Renault cars. He was outstanding in his year-plus in the series, winning thirteen of the seventeen events he appeared in.
Peter Sauber was so impressed that he gave the Finn a test, and after a successful test was signed to the Sauber team for the 2001 season. Without a single bit of experience in Formula 3 or Formula 3000, the two series generally believed to be "feeder" series to F1, he was not immediately granted the superlicence necessary to race in the series, with the thought that his lack of major experience was going to be a hazard on track. FIA president Max Mosley was among those against him getting one. None the less, he narrowly got enough support and raced for Sauber that year.
In his first race, he finished a very solid seventh, which became sixth after Olivier Panis was penalized. It started a solid debut year where he proved he was ready for the big time, finishing with four points scoring finishes and eight finishes in the top eight. More importantly he was far from the hazard that people expected him to be. While he was outscored by teammate and fellow prospect Nick Heidfeld, McLaren was sufficiently impressed by Kimi that the young Finn earned a spot on Ron Dennis' team for 2002, replacing departing Finn Mika Häkkinen, over his teammate.
The McLaren car suffered many engine problems that season, but the times Kimi did finish he was often on the podium, proving that they made the right choice of drivers. He nearly won his first race at the French Grand Prix that year but spun out with a handful of laps to go and settled for second place. All told, he finished the season a very solid sixth in points.
Through seven races in 2003, Kimi's McLaren vehicle had been exceptional, netting his first win in the Malaysian Grand Prix. He came extremely close to winning the Monaco Grand Prix as well but lost by less than a second to Juan Pablo Montoya. In six of his seven races he reached the podium, only missing the podium after a crash on the first lap of a race that he was forced to start from the back of the field after a spin in his only shot of qualifying. Despite all this, Kimi failed to claim the 2003 championship and had to settle for second to Michael Schumacher.
The 2004 season was dismal for Räikkönen as he only claimed a point in the first four races of the season, having not even finished the first three races.