A racing legend sheds his icy reserve to talk about timepieces and going the distance.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

A racing legend sheds his icy reserve to talk about timepieces and going the distance.

Before meeting famously chilly Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen for a group interview a few days before the Singapore Grand Prix (GP) in September, I was unsure about what to expect. After all, the F1 legend – who has clocked more than 300 races, 103 podium finishes and 21 wins in 18 years of racing – is known as the Iceman, thanks to his well-documented monosyllabic interview answers.

So, it was a pleasant surprise to find the Finnish driver in a relatively good – dare we say, even chatty – mood during the 15-minute session, which was hosted by Swiss luxury watch brand Richard Mille. Wearing the new RM 50-04 Tourbillon Split-Seconds Chronograph Kimi Raikkonen on the day of its global launch, the Alfa Romeo Racing Team driver answered with a smile – and a bluntness rare in watch ambassadors – when asked what he liked about the ultra-lightweight timepiece: “I’ve been in teams that worked with different watch brands, but I’ve never really been a guy who wears a watch, because they always felt uncomfortable and they never appealed to me.

“I was a bit sceptical when we first signed the deal – I thought, ‘Oh, it’s another watch brand.’ But once I got my watch, I was so surprised because I didn’t even notice I had it on. It’s a great-looking watch and it doesn’t weigh anything, so for me, it’s perfect.”

Having turned 40 last month, Raikkonen is the rare driver who is 40 and above and still active in the 2000s. Even though younger drivers dominate the spotlight, the father of two is far from done: Just last October, he won the US GP as part of the Scuderia Ferrari team. With his consistently demonstrated talent and longevity, and yes, even with – or perhaps especially because of – his unwillingness to play the PR game, he remains one of F1’s most popular stars, with 1.7 million followers on Instagram.

As with all sportsmen though, he’s had his ups and downs. At the Singapore GP, a collision with another car forced him to drop out of the race, more than three-quarters into it. But one gets the feeling that Raikkonen doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on what’s past. At one point, he muses: “I’ve been very blessed that I’ve been able to race with guys like [Michael] Schumacher and [Mika] Hakkinen. I’m here today, and I have two kids and a lovely wife. I’ve always done what I’ve felt is right for me. I wouldn’t change anything that I’ve done, even the not-so-good things. It’s all part of learning.”