Kimi Raikkonen Compares NASCAR, F1 Atmospheres Before Cup Series Debut – Sports Illustrated

Motorsports fans across the world will likely have an eye on NASCAR’s Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International this Sunday as its set to have seven countries represented among the drivers—the most in the series’ history. 
While there will be two former Formula One drivers competing, the name that’s drawn the most attention is former world champion Kimi Räikkönen. The Iceman, who is the last Ferrari driver to win the F1 driver world championship back in 2007, joins Trackhouse Racing as part of its new international driver program, competing alongside their current drivers—Daniel Suarez and Ross Chastain. 
During his media session prior to practice and qualifying, Räikkönen faced a slew of questions, including being prompted to compare the atmospheres at NASCAR and Formula One, the latter of which he competed in for 19 years. 
He said it’s “a lot different” compared to the last NASCAR stint he did. Back in 2011, he competed in an Xfinity Series race and a Truck Series race for Kyle Busch Motorsports at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“I like it,” Räikkönen said Saturday. “It’s very relaxed… I think the schedule is slightly different than it was [last] time. What happened to many sports after COVID, [they] figured out [that] maybe we don’t need to spend as many days over the weekend. Obviously, in hindsight, it would work better for me if we had more testing or practice. 
“But, that’s how it is. I really like it. It’s very relaxed, nice family atmosphere. [There’s] a lot more, let’s say, a family atmosphere than in F1 so I like it.”
Räikkönen’s family came along for the race weekend, and so far, he ran P20 in practice before qualifying 27th for his Cup Series debut. 
“Obviously, I wish there had been more laps,” the Iceman said, in part, after his 10 qualifying laps. “It just felt like there’s a lot of potential. I’m not sure which line to take; there’s not enough laps to put everything together. But, yeah it was fun… Quite a lot like I sort of expected after the simulator. Obviously, there’s always a difference.”
Some may be wondering why Räikkönen is taking on the Cup Series after stepping away from F1 following the 2021 campaign. He accumulated 21 Grand Prix victories and 103 podiums during the 19-year span, and on Saturday, the Finland native was asked why he’d take the risk of not having a good performance given the limited prep time for his debut. 
“I don’t see any risk. Why not?” Raikkonen responded. “What do I have to lose? That I‘ve done bad in a NASCAR race or bad in any race? I don’t care. I do it for myself. Good or bad end result, it could happen even if I did 20 races. They all could be bad for many different reasons.
“I don’t see anything negative. I think it’s great. But what Justin [Marks] and the team is doing to give a chance to those from Europe … I’m sure there’s a lot of drivers that would like to have a chance and try it, but it’s not very easy. So maybe it opens some doors that in future there’s more some kind of chance to try to get more Europeans.”
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