Sunday will see Kimi Raikkonen reach a landmark only made by four other drivers in Formula 1 history when he enters his 300th grand prix.

But he really, really does not care.

“I’ve tried to force them to cancel everything, but I’ve not had much success so far,” Raikkonen said of Alfa Romeo’s planned celebrations for the weekend.

There will be no special helmet design. No special livery. Not even any cake to mark Raikkonen’s achievement. “It’s no different than last week or the next race,” he said. “In the end, this is just a number.”

It may be “just a number” to Raikkonen, but his continued presence in F1 is important, connecting us to the early 2000s and a very different era of the sport. The Finn made his debut in 2001, a full five years before the next-earliest debutants: Robert Kubica (Italy 2006), after whom comes Lewis Hamilton (Australia 2007).

Spanning V10s, V8s and the current V6 hybrid eras, Raikkonen has seen a lot of changes through his F1 career – a period in which he simply said “a lot of new things have come in everybody’s life, and bring us change” (not quite 'live, love, laugh') – but in his view, the basics remain largely the same.

“Once you go a little while, it doesn’t really change. It’s more or less the same schedule year from year,” Raikkonen said. “Obviously some places change, but it’s the same schedule. It might be a different time because of the evening or something, but whatever happens at the track, it’s copy-paste more or less all around the year.”

And the media after 300 races? What’s changed there?

“Same questions, same questions…”

One of the big topics throughout Raikkonen’s career has been his motivation and level of enjoyment in F1. Despite joining a very exclusive club of 300-plus race entrants, his passive demeanour has meant there is always a need for him to prove his commitment.

Raikkonen still enjoys it, though – because he keeps his approach simple. To him, it is all about the racing.

“I think you enjoy it more when it goes well. When it’s not that well, it’s not much fun,” he said. “But the driving hasn’t really changed, just the cars have changed in some ways. I don’t think the driving itself changes, just the rules dictate some things, but it’s still the same thing you drive, and you try to go as fast as you can. I wouldn’t say that it’s changed an awful lot.”

Even when asked to pick out a favourite era or period of cars that he has raced, Raikkonen isn’t drawn on anything in particular.

“Some years, obviously rule changes have dictated things a little bit, but the driving has not really changed an awful lot,” he said. “The racing has been more or less the same. If you take 10 cars you’re driving, you don’t drive any differently. There’s no difference really. The sound is different - that’s it.”

While some drivers are waiting to see what F1 will look like from 2021 onwards when it comes to making a decision on their long-term futures in the sport under the planned revised regulations, to Raikkonen, it makes zero difference.

“I have a contract for next year, and after that, we’ll see how things go and if I’m interested,” he said.

“In the end you see, we make a big rule change, and generally the big teams are still there. They have the research to do a lot of different things and figure out the best way to do it.

“Maybe it would be nice that if everything got much closer, for the sport, not just for the drivers, but for the sport. But honestly, it’s very unknown. We can guess, but it has zero impact on driving.”

Assuming Raikkonen enters all the remaining races this year, he will surpass Fernando Alonso’s tally of 314 entries in Abu Dhabi to sit second on the all-time list. Rubens Barrichello’s overall record of 326 entries would then likely be surpassed towards the end of the European season next year.

But is becoming F1’s all-time appearance record-holder an important goal for Raikkonen?

“No. Absolutely not,” he said, laughing.

“I’m not here because I can do the most grands prix. It gives me absolutely zero pleasure.

“It’s purely a number. It’s as any other race here, but people try to celebrate. It’s a number. What’s the difference?”

The numbers may not ever much to Raikkonen, but there is recognition from the 2007 world champion that by the time he walks away from the sport for a second time – he took a two-year sabbatical in 2010 and 2011, without which he says “for sure, I wouldn’t be here today” – he may have a greater sentimentality for his achievements.

“Whenever I stop and maybe look back, then it makes a bit more sense and feels a bit more different,” he said.

“Now for me, I don’t really feel that it’s been that long. I had some good races, some good results, but it’s just racing at the end of the day.”

For all of the numbers, milestone and statistics you want to throw at Kimi Raikkonen, this will always be “just racing” to him. The stuff that really matters? That’s not here in Formula 1.

“Once the race is over, life is no different after that.”




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