NASCAR » 17 May 2011
Keep working at it, Montoya tells Raikkonen
Raikkonen will be under pressure straight away at Charlotte, with qualification carrying with it the potential for a very embarrassing public failure.
The news about Kimi's switch to NASCAR still leaves experienced motor sports journalists shaking their heads in wonder, not least because the US scene is notorious for the amount of media work required of its drivers who become almost full time corporate spokespeople for their sponsors.
"Both [Montoya and Raikkonen] suffer from lockjaw when it comes to the press, and neither is a fun interview," said Bob Varsha, longtime voice of F1 on the US sports channel SPEED, commenting on his scepticism about Raikkonen's decision to come to NASCAR. "I still find it odd, because he is such a reserved guy and hated dealing with the press in F1. That supposedly was one of his motivations for leaving the sport after winning the world championship.
"If Kimi knows anything about NASCAR, he knows NASCAR drivers are almost compelled to be gregarious, fan-friendly, work with the press and so on, which is completely unlike the Kimi those of us who have been involved with his career in F1 know."
One thing that's perceived to have held Montoya back in NASCAR is his difficulty in "playing nicely with others", as the sport often relies on on- and off-track alliances and partnerships. Montoya's still seen as very much something of a lone wolf, and Raikkonen could find himself in a similar situation.
"He was nicknamed 'Ice Man' when he raced in F1 so if that tells you anything!" laughs Montoya.
"Both are recognised as being incredibly brave and fast, said SPEED's Varsha. "But the key with both men is that neither enjoyed a reputation as either a team player or a technically astute driver ... If the car works as they need it to, they succeed. If it doesn't, working with the engineers to make it better was never something that seemed to interest them."
In the meantime, Kimi has been busy making sure that his "day job" over in the World Rally Championship doesn't feel unloved and unwanted by all the attention buzzing around his NASCAR debut.
"I wouldn't be doing any of the racing if it clashed with anything which I'm doing in the WRC," he emphasised to the WRC series website. "The races have been picked because they fit around the rallies I'm doing. It doesn't matter where I am when I'm not on the rallies."
Raikkonen, who recently finished sixth on Rally Jordan, says he's looking forward to his next WRC appearance, at the Acropolis Rally of Greece from 16-19 June. "The driving has been better and we're pushing harder now. My only target really is to improve in the WRC."
Meanwhile it looks like Raikkonen's NASCAR excursion might be starting a trend. His Finnish compatriot Mika Salo has reportedly told the Turun Sanomat (the same paper that broke the story of Kimi heading Stateside in March) newspaper that he's also set to try his hand at the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
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