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F1: The Iceman snoozeth

The New Paper | Sazali Abdul Aziz | Sunday, Sep 21, 2014

The moment Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen set foot on stage at Shell's "Ready, Set, Build" event at the Raffles City Convention Centre yesterday afternoon, he let out a big yawn. How he must have wished he was having a siesta.

The 34-year-old Finn (right) is famously dubbed "The Iceman" for his ice cool in a sport that otherwise sets pulses racing, and also for his monosyllabic answers at media sessions.

His calmness is legendary - 30 minutes before his debut Formula 1 race in 2001, he was dozing in a room at the back of the garage.

Raikkonen was in his element yesterday ahead of this weekend's Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix.

After getting settled on stage, he yawned another three times during a question-and-answer session prompting the event's host to even jokingly apologise for "keeping you up". Overall, though, he was in a chatty mood, by his standards.

When asked if whether jet lag made it difficult for drivers - their body clocks are still working on European time - to adjust in Singapore, the 2007 world champion said: "I like to sleep a bit longer and I usually sleep quite late in the night so for me it doesn't really matter.

"The race is in the evening when it's dark but then the lights are so bright it almost feels like daytime for drivers.

"I know it looks quite nice, especially if you look at pictures on TV, but on the ground you don't notice it yourself too much when you're driving.

"I don't do any special things (to prepare for the Singapore race)... I'm not really too worried about it."

Raikkonen has not done too shabbily in Singapore.

He has bettered himself at each race here, finishing 15th (2008), 10th (2009) and sixth (2012) before finally making the podium with a third-placed finish last year.

He also holds the record for the fastest lap around the Marina Bay Street Circuit (1 min 45.599 sec), which he clocked in the inaugural night race in 2008 in a Ferrari.

Describing the Singapore street race as "challenging", he added that the recent ban on teams sending drivers coded messages over the radio would make it even trickier.

When asked about the impact the ruling could have, he said: "It's hard to say because this will be the first time.

"Some cars are harder to keep in check things like battery levels, so being unable to tell the drivers things like that can get quite tricky.

"But I hope we can have a strong race, we'll do our best and see where we end up."

EXPRESSIONLESS

While Raikkonen looked expressionless for most of the event, he stirred when he was asked to take part in a race of Lego cars.

He was paired with ITE College West student Sean Ng, who earned the opportunity by being the quickest at building a mini Ferrari car out of Lego bricks.

Up against schoolmate Kenneth Ho and Shell's trackside and logistics manager Ian Albiston in a best-of-three contest, Sean cost his team the first race, raising the ire of his famous teammate.

"He (Sean) needs to be sharper," the Finn snapped, with a smile.

Sean duly responded and they won the next two races.

The 18-year-old later said: "Maybe he (Raikkonen) is a nice guy, but I could see he wasn't in the mood... He really didn't look interested.

"But he was really pumped up to win in the race, and when he made that comment, I was stunned so I made sure I was pumped to win, too."

Perhaps it is par for the course for a man who has ice in his veins and enjoys hibernating as much as Raikkonen does.

But, when it's time to compete, he is usually on his game.

While he hasn't managed a podium finish all season, his record here suggests he could surprise and take his place on the podium on Sunday, although all bets are off if he'll do so with a yawn.


This article was first published on September 19, 2014.
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