SEPANG will surely be a memorable track for Kimi Raikkonen as it was here in 2003 that he bagged his first Formula 1 win.
Many questioned McLaren’s decision to pick the young Finn – nicknamed the ‘Ice Man’ – over former test driver and Sauber teammate Nick Heidfeld back then.
But after a trying first year in a difficult car, the future world champion justified their faith in him by bagging his first win in Malaysia.
While Fernando Alonso of Renault will be remembered for his first pole position, Raikkonen – only 22 then – was the man of the race.
The young Finn climbed to second early on and reeled off the remaining laps like a veteran, eventually finishing nearly 40 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello.
“Even if I never win again, I’ve had this day,” said Raikkonen, not knowing that there would be plenty more days like that would culminate with him winning the world title in 2007 with Ferrari.
Sepang also brings pleasant – if not funny – memories of Raikkonen enjoying an ice cream in the garage.
Raikkonen was driving for Ferrari in his final year with the Italian team in 2009 when the cameras caught him enjoying his ice cream after the race was stopped due to a downpour.
“What can you do if the team tells you that your car is broken because they have an issue with it?” he said in an interview later.
“That I cannot race even if I wanted to.
“People try to make a lot of b******t for nothing. I mean there was absolutely nothing more for me to do than to have an ice cream.”
Raikkonen exited the sport at the end of the 2009 after the team paid him off for the final year of his contract to make way for Fernando Alonso.
However, he made a dramatic return in 2014 to drive for Ferrari and will continue to do so for next year.
Interestingly, his only world title win in 2007 was also Ferrari’s last.