Kimi Raikkonen

March 23 in Motorsports History: Iceman keeps cool in Malaysian GP

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A future Formula One champion made his mark on the racing world on this date 17 years ago in the hot and humid conditions at Malaysia’s Sepang Circuit.

Though the initial race day forecast for the Malaysian Grand Prix called for rain, the only drops the 20 drivers competing in the race felt were those of their own sweat.

With a track temperature of nearly 135 degrees Fahrenheit, drivers needed to keep themselves cool both physically and mentally if they intended on winning the race.

Perhaps fittingly, it was Kimi Räikkönen, the driver nicknamed ‘Iceman,’ who found his way to victory lane.

Driving for McLaren, Räikkönen started the race from seventh but quickly challenged for the lead within a few laps.

As the cars entered the first corner behind pole-sitter Fernando Alonso, third-place Michael Schumacher made contact with Jarno Trulli, forcing Trulli off-track and Schumacher into the pits for a nose-cone replacement.

Kimi Raikkonen celebrates winning the 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

During the chain-reaction crash in Turn 1, Antônio Pizzonia rear-ended Juan Pablo Montoya, and David Coulthard emerged in second place, followed by Nick Heidfeld and Räikkönen in third and fourth.

Coulthard experienced an electrical issue on Lap 2 that forced him to retire. Räikkönen passed Heidfeld and remained in second before inheriting the lead when Alonso pitted on Lap 14.

Räikkönen remained on the track before eventually stopping on Lap 19, briefly ceding the lead to Rubens Barrichello before retaking it when the Brazillian pitted on Lap 22.

The Finnish driver held on for the remaining 35 laps to score his first F1 victory. Barrichello was second, and Alonso finished third for his first F1 podium.

Räikkönen has scored 20 more victories in his Formula One career, including another Maylasian Grand Prix that also took place on this date in 2008. He won the World Championship in 2007 with Ferrari.

Also on this date:

1986: Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna finished 1-2 in their home Grand Prix of Brazil. The victory was Piquet’s second at the Jacarepaguá Circuit. Piquet previously won there in 1983.

1996: Alexander Albon was born in London. The Red Bull driver finished eighth in the Formula One points standings in his rookie season last year.

1997: Jim Guthrie pulled off one of the biggest upsets in IndyCar history, beating Tony Stewart to win at Phoenix. Guthrie entered the race weekend unsponsored and had taken a second mortgage on his house to get the money needed to race. The win was Guthrie’s lone podium in 15 IndyCar starts.

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