Raikkonen quips he has gone from too inexperienced to too old
By Alan Baldwin
(Reuters) - Kimi Raikkonen jokingly summed up his 20-season Formula 1 career on Thursday as an advance from too inexperienced to too old with good parts in the middle.
The evergreen Finn, who will turn 41 on October 17th, will drive a record of 323rd Formula 1 starts on Sunday at the German Nürburgring.
The 2007 world champion with Ferrari, Raikkonen, made his debut in 2001 with Sauber on probation and with experts warning the 21-year-old that he could cause chaos after just 23 single-seater starts.
Max Mosley, then president of the ruling FIA, was a single vote against when he voted against being granted a super license for Raikkonen.
The Alfa Romeo driver, who will beat the record of the Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, has the last laugh - even if he is behind a face mask that is now mandatory.
"It started with the fact that I didn't have enough experience," Raikkonen told reporters at the Grand Prix of the Eifel.
"And now I'm getting too old for them to want to get rid of me. It worked fine in the middle and now it's not great for some people."
Ferrari's youngest champion may not be ready either, even if he downplayed speculation that he has agreed to an extension for 2021.
Raikkonen said it was his decision and he was still enjoying the race but nothing had been signed.
The "Iceman" remains a fan favorite, known for his tacit answers to questions and his determination to be his own man, and prefers to speak on the track.
For some of his rivals, he's been around for as long as they can remember.
"He's an incredibly good driver, someone I've followed, a very likeable guy and very different from many other drivers," said McLaren's Lando Norris, who was only a year old when Raikkonen made his F1 debut.
Räikkönen, who joined McLaren in 2002 and Ferrari in 2007, celebrated his first win in Malaysia in 2003 and his last in the US in 2018.
"Even if he thinks this is not a very big milestone or he doesn't care that much, it's obviously very impressive," said Carlos Sainz, Norris Ferrari team-mate.
"It's absolutely incredible," said former Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean of the Finn's career.
"I had a really good time with Kimi. He was a lot less talkative than probably today, but I learned a lot next to him.
"Kimi is a great character, a good guy to ride bike to bike with because you know he'll leave the room and have the respect for you."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Editing by Ed Osmond)
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