Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen, the price of experience in Formula 1

Twenty years ago, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen were still just two young drivers (aged 19 and 21) making their debut in Formula 1, facing experienced rivals such as Finland’s Mika Häkkinen, Briton David Coulthard or German Michael Schumacher. In Australia, on March 4, 2001, the Spaniard finished twelfth and the Finn sixth in their first Grand Prix, flown by the seven-time German world champion.

Sunday March 28, on the Bahrain circuit, Fernando Alonso, at Alpine (ex-Renault) and Kimi Räikkönen, at Alfa Romeo, will respectively start their 18e and 19e season. A performance far from trivial in this ruthless world of F1, where the tubs are far from being assured from one year to the next.

In the middle of the desert, they will find… Schumacher. Not the legend, the ex-Ferrari driver, paralyzed since a skiing accident in 2013, but his son: Mick. The 22-year-old is about to debut in the holy of holies. “It must make you look old and make you funny to race with the son of a great man from F1 with whom you started out”, laughs Olivier Panis, who drove a single-seater during this 2001 season, that of the beginnings of the Spanish-Finnish duo.

At the dawn of this new season, Alonso is now 39 years old and Räikkönen is 41. The first, who was twice world champion during his first stint at Renault (in 2005 and 2006), is making his comeback after two years of absence. A busy break with participation in the Dakar rally (2020) and prestigious victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2019, after that of 2018 when he was still an F1 driver) and at Daytona (2019), accompanied by a title of world champion in endurance (2019). Between 2009 and 2012, Kimi Räikkönen, world champion in 2007, had also made a cut. Like a good Finn, “Iceman” had tried the rally.

“For them, F1 is like a priesthood”

So why come back? “This is the particularity of these great pilots, they have a passion for competition and high level. For them, F1 is like a priesthood ”, decrypts Eric Boullier, now director of the Grand Prix de France, and who, when he held the post of team manager from the Lotus team, had been at the origin of the return of Räikkönen: “The team wanted to have a renowned and talented driver. He had been world champion with Ferrari. “

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