(Reuters) - Kimi Raikkonen jokingly summed up his 20-season Formula One career on Thursday as a progression from too inexperienced to too old, with good bits in the middle.
The evergreen Finn, who turns 41 on Oct. 17, will be making a record 323rd Formula One start at Germany’s Nuerburgring on Sunday.
The 2007 world champion with Ferrari, Raikkonen made his debut with Sauber in 2001 on probation and with experts warning the 21-year-old could cause mayhem after having made only 23 single-seater starts.
Max Mosley, then president of the governing FIA, was a lone dissenting voice in voting against Raikkonen being granted a super-licence.
The Alfa Romeo driver, who will beat the record held by Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, has the last laugh -- even if behind a now obligatory face mask.
“It started with I didn’t have enough experience,” Raikkonen told reporters at the Eifel Grand Prix.
“And now I’m getting too old, so that they want to get rid of me. In the middle one way it worked okay and now it’s not great for some people.”
Ferrari’s most recent champion may not be done yet either, even if he played down speculation that he has agreed an extension for 2021.
Raikkonen said it would be his decision, and he still enjoyed the racing, but nothing had been signed.
The “Iceman” remains a fan favourite, renowned for his taciturn responses to questions and determination to be his own man, preferring to do the talking on the track.
For some of his rivals, he has been around for as long as they can remember.
“He’s an incredibly good driver, someone I followed and a very likeable guy and very different to a lot of the drivers,” said McLaren’s Lando Norris, who was only a year old when Raikkonen made his F1 debut.
Raikkonen, who joined McLaren in 2002 and Ferrari in 2007, took his first win in Malaysia in 2003 and his last in the United States in 2018.
“Even if he thinks it’s not a very big milestone or he doesn’t care that much, it’s obviously very impressive,” said Norris’s Ferrari-bound team mate Carlos Sainz.
“It’s absolutely incredible,” said former Lotus team mate Romain Grosjean of the Finn’s career.
“I’ve had a really good time with Kimi. He was much less talkative than he is probably today but I learned a lot next to him.
“Kimi is a great character, a good guy to race wheel to wheel with because you know he’s going to leave you the room and have the respect.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond
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