Back in January 2022, Formula One legend Kimi Raikkonen decided to try his hand at both a new form of racing, and a new role. That’s when he officially became Team Principal of the Kawasaki Racing Team’s MXGP squad, a role that’s apparently only become more successful as the team races through the 2023 season.
As a general rule, Formula One racers are extremely fit individuals. Those who follow the sport are likely accustomed to seeing video footage and social media posts with their favorite drivers doing various sports, including cycling and karting. What you don’t see very often, however, is F1 drivers doing motocross. (You see MotoGP riders doing motocross, but that’s a different story.)
There could be a number of reasons for this, of course. While F1 drivers like Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, and Daniel Ricciardo have all shown off and/or talked about their love of street motorcycles in the past, those seem to most commonly be fun personal pursuits, not used for training or competition. While some athletes are prohibited from pursuing activities that could sideline them from their professional sporting career (something Reggie Jackson mentioned when discussing his motorcycling life), it’s not at all clear whether this is the case for F1 drivers.
That said, one quote from a recent interview with Kimi Raikkonen during the 2023 MXGP season stood out. Various histories of Raikkonen’s life mention his and his brothers’ early interest in motocross bikes when they were kids. That includes the official Formula One Hall of Fame Driver writeup, but it’s written in such a way as to make it seem like Raikkonen’s MX interest is something firmly in the past. A relic of childhood, if you will.
Now that Raikkonen’s in his second year as team boss over at the KRT MXGP team, though, we’re learning more about what’s apparently a lifelong love affair. Not just with motorcycles—with motocross, in particular.
Although he’s never been much for serious competition as an MX rider, he said that he did do some club races at one time on a Kawasaki KX250. He’s been riding regularly since he was a child, though—both for fun, and as part of his physical training routine. That’s what he says he loves about it—the physicality that’s unique to this style of riding.
Anyway, that’s part of why this quote is so interesting. When asked the question, “were you allowed to race motocross as a Formula One driver,” he responded,
“Sometimes I went riding in small club races, but it was just for fun, and I have a small track at home here with the kids. I did not race at a high level, and I felt it was part of my fitness program. I don’t know what any of my teams thought about it as I never mentioned it to them.” [Emphasis mine.]
Throughout his racing career, Raikkonen’s famously tight-lipped personality has been a respected and unique quality, so that kind of makes this statement feel like the icing on the cake. We have no way of knowing what was going through his mind, but you can’t get in trouble with someone if you just don’t tell them what you’re doing, right? Right. If you want to read the complete interview with Raikkonen, we’ll include a link to it in our Sources.
How is the KRT MXGP team faring in 2023? As of August 18, 2023, there are only four events remaining on the 2023 season calendar. After 15 rounds, Kawasaki Racing Team MXGP rider Romain Febvre is sitting in second place in the championship standings with 672 points. The championship leader is GasGas rider Jorge Prado with 770 points.