Last weekend at the Eifel Grand Prix, Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen broke Rubens Barrichello's previously held record for number of Formula 1 starts .
Raikkonen first tested for Sauber in 2000, where his speed on the Mugello track impressed Michael Schumacher, testing the same day for Ferrari.
323 F1 starts later, members of the Alfa Romeo team and Raikkonen’s entourage paid tribute to the Finn.
“The race start record is just a number, of course, but it's huge. " said Beat Zehnder, Alfa Romeo’s sporting director.
“It's a world record and he can be proud of what he has accomplished over the past two decades. "
“He's given so much to the F1 world and, unlike so many others, he's never changed. He's always blunt, always brutally honest and that's what makes him special. His career is exceptional. "
Kimi Raikkonen's teammate over the past two years in Formula 1 has been Italy's Antonio Giovinazzi, the young driver saying he learned a lot from the 2007 world champion.
“Kimi is a legend of the sport and I am happy and proud to be his teammate. " Giovinazzi said.
“Every year everyone thinks it will be their last year, but at the end of the day he always surprises us by staying one more season. "
“I am very happy with the relationship we have and the way we work together. "
“I think he's always been a fair competitor and we've never had a problem with each other. "
“As a novice with a world champion teammate I have learned a lot from him over the past two years and also when we have worked together at Ferrari: he has always been open to help me and to discuss all kinds of things. things. "
Kimi Raikkonen’s racing engineer – Frenchman Julien Simon-Chautemps – said the Finn’s openness was that little extra that made it easy to work with him.
“He's a very simple man and there are no gray areas with him. " explained Simon-Chautemps.
“He knows exactly what he needs and what he wants to do and that makes our life a lot easier. He could be a really good racing engineer actually, and sometimes that makes my life easier, sometimes a little less! "
"But he's a really good guy, a very fast driver, extremely good at knowing what cars need and what to do to go fast, so that's what's important. It’s a great asset to the team. "
The last word goes, of course, to Peter Sauber, the man who gave young Kimi Raikkonen a chance 20 years ago.
“Three hundred and twenty-three race starts is good, but the numbers are not that important. " said Peter Sauber.
“What's important to me is that Kimi still has the same charisma that made me want to sign him 20 years ago. "
It remains unclear whether Kimi Raikkonen will continue his Formula 1 career next season or whether the Finn will retire from the sport at the age of 41.