By Alan Baldwin
MONACO (Reuters) – Kimi Raikkonen is attending his 300th Formula One Grand Prix in Monaco this weekend, and the 2007 world champion could hardly care less about the milestone.
In fact, the Finn told reporters on Wednesday, he had wanted no fanfare.
“I tried to force them to cancel everything, but I’ve not had very good success so far,” said the Alfa Romeo driver, who joined from Ferrari at the end of last year.
“It’s no different from last week or the next race. In the end this is just a number. For sure it’s different from the first race but after that, once you go on for a while, it doesn’t really change.”
The team had sent out an email race preview earlier in the day with Raikkonen’s head superimposed on a picture of a bare-chested Spartan warrior from the 2006 movie ‘300’ with the number written in blood against a backdrop of battle.
“Everyone is talking about my 300th race, but I’m more interested in our performance,” it quoted the 39-year-old as saying.
Since his race debut with Sauber (now Alfa) in Australia in 2001, the Finn has won 21 grands prix but took two years out to go rallying.
Raikkonen’s actual 300th race start has yet to come, however, since the veteran has missed a couple over the years for various reasons despite taking part in most of the weekend.
Monaco, by most statisticians’ reckoning, will be the Finn’s 298th start.
Retired Brazilian Rubens Barrichello holds the record number of starts with 323, a tally Raikkonen can surpass if he sees out his contract and races on to the end of 2020.
Only three drivers apart from Barrichello and Raikkonen have started 300 races in their careers and all are retired — Spaniard Fernando Alonso (311), Britain’s Jenson Button and Germany’s seven times world champion Michael Schumacher (306).
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)