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F1 | Exclusive interview with F1 race engineer Julien Simon-Chautemps: Räikkönen "the best driver I've been working with by far" when it came to race management

In the first part of MotorLAT's exclusive with the former F1 race engineer, we spoke to him about working with Kimi Räikkönen.

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F1 | Exclusive interview with F1 race engineer Julien Simon-Chautemps: Räikkönen "the best driver I've been working with by far" when it came to race management
Fuente imagen: Alfa Romeo Racing

Julien Simon-Chautemps was Kimi Räikkönen’s last race engineer in Formula One when the Finn retired at the end of the 2021 season.

Before Räikkönen rejoined Alfa Romeo/Sauber in 2019, the two had already worked together for a couple of seasons at Lotus.

Simon-Chautemps was a performance engineer on Räikkönen’s car in 2012 and 2013. They had plenty of success on the Finn’s side of the garage during that period with two wins and fifteen podiums. 

Unsurprisingly, two of his favourite racing memories are the victories with Räikkönen – the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the 2013 Australian Grand Prix.

“I worked with Kimi and that was a great moment [in time]," he said when speaking to MotorLAT. 

“We won in 2012 in Abu Dhabi and 2013 in Australia. That is still part of my greatest memories so far.”

As well as commending him for his talent, The Frenchman said the Finn was unique when it came to sensitivity car setup and car balance.

“He's one of the most talented drivers that I've been working with by far,” he stated.

“In terms of sensitivity of car setup and car balance, he is one of a kind.”

Räikkönen’s best performances throughout his career tended to come on Sunday afternoons. He took 21 wins during his 19-season career versus his 18 pole positions.

Simon-Chautemps was full of praise for Räikkönen’s race management, describing it as “something I’ve never seen before.”

“But I would say where Kimi was really good was what they call race awareness [all phases of a race].

“The race start and what's happening during the race, the strategy... maybe over a single lap he's not the quickest driver I work with, but over the race in terms of tyre management, engine management, he's been the best driver I've been working with by far.

“Everything related to what's happening around him, awareness of what other cars are doing and in terms of sensitivity to the tyre management and fuel management, what he needed to change on the car… is something I've never seen before.”

“Even at the end of last year it was absolutely incredible what he could pull out from an average car.”

A number of team radios between Simon-Chautemps and Räikkönen’s went viral online during their three years together at Alfa Romeo.

The biggest one could well have been at Mugello in 2020 when Räikkönen shouted “for what” at the Frenchman when asking what his penalty was for.

Asked if he agreed with the assessment that it’s a part of his job, the 43-year-old agreed.

He added that Kimi rang him after the race to apologise for his outburst.

“It's part of my job. I've never took it personally, but Mugello was really bad.

“I remember him calling me in the evening when I was back in the UK.

“When I landed, I've seen a missed call from him – which is quite rare for Kimi to call you – and basically said ‘I'm sorry I went over the top'.

“He was just expressing frustration at the time – not against me – but against the circumstances.

“I never took it personally, despite having a lot of YouTube clips [of their radio messages] online.

“It's part of the job and I would say it's part of the beauty of working with Kimi.”

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