'This is it': Formula One fans saddened by legend's retirement

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·Sports Reporter
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Kimi Raikkonen has announced his retirement from Formula One.
Formula One great Kimi Raikkonen has announced he will retire from the sport at the end of the 2021 season, at the age of 42. (ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images)

Formula One veteran and fan favourite Kimi Raikkonen has announced he will retire from the sport at the end of the 2021 season.

The 2007 F1 world champion is bringing to a close his storied career in the top flight of motorsport, which began at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix, where de debuted for Sauber.

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At 41 years old, Raikkonen has been the oldest driver on the grid for some time, with his last grand prix win coming at the United States GP in 2018 for Ferrari.

Raikkonen holds the all-time record for the most F1 starts at 344, winning 21 races and finishing on the podium 102 times.

The Alfa-Romeo driver announced his decision to retire on Instagram, amid speculation Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas has been signed to replace him.

In typical Raikkonen fashion, his announcement was about as blunt as can be.

"This is it. This will be my last season in Formula One. This is a decision I did during last winter," Raikkonen said to his 2.4 million followers.

"It was not an easy decision but after this season it is time for new things... Formula One might come to an end for me but there is a lot more in life that I want to experience and enjoy," he added.

Raikkonen briefly left the F1 world in 2010 for a brief foray into the world of rallying and NASCAR, before rejoining the grid in 2012 for Lotus.

A blunt fan favourite whose love of racing is matched by his dislike of media duties and the corporate side of the sport, Raikkonen made his F1 debut in 2001 with Sauber, the team that now races as Alfa.

He was so inexperienced in single-seater racing that the team had to convince the governing body to give him a super-licence.

F1 fans pay tribute to retiring superstar Kimi Raikkonen

While the announcement wasn't necessarily a surprise to devoted F1 fans, the decision nevertheless prompted an outpouring of support for the fan favourite driver.

Raikkonen quickly established himself as star on the rise in the early 2000s after his move to McLaren in 2003, where he was arguably the biggest challenger to the dominant Michael Schumacher.

He would eventually go on to replace Schumacher at Ferrari in 2007, after the 7-times world champion stepped down at the end of 2006.

Dubbed 'Iceman' by McLaren team boss Ron Dennis for his calmness under pressure, he now has the word tattooed on his forearm.

His title success remains the last championship for a Ferrari driver and came when the Finn pipped McLaren's then-rookie Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso by a single point after winning three of the final four races.

Raikkonen left the sport at the end of 2009 but returned in 2012 with Lotus, with whom he won two races before his second stint at Ferrari from 2014-2018.

"Kimi is an incredible part of our sport, a personal friend and a true champion," said former Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali, who now runs Formula One as chief executive.

"I had the privilege of working with him at Ferrari and know the fantastic person he is. We will all miss him and his unique style and wish him and his family the best for the future."

With AAP

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