Always look on the bright side of life

By Emma Kimiläinen

To celebrate the two-year anniversary of W Series launching, we have been catching up with the leading drivers from our inaugural on-track season last year in a new series of blogs. Next up is Emma Kimiläinen who finished fifth in the 2019 Championship and, armed with a new training regime and mindset, is focused on winning the W Series title next year.

I have just been for lunch at a restaurant in Helsinki following a 10-kilometre run in the sunshine. There are very few Covid-enforced restrictions here in Finland now, so we are free to go out to exercise, eat, shop and meet people provided we wear masks and maintain social distancing. My family and I are well, and it has been great to meet some friends and relatives, like my husband’s 97-year-old grandmother, in recent weeks after going so long without seeing them in-person.

I always look on the bright side of life and so the lack of racing this year has been refreshing for my training regime. I’ve tended to struggle with running because of a long-standing hip injury, but this break has allowed me to tackle it properly – to rehabilitate the hip and do whatever it took to get up to speed. It took many months and I still have a few issues, but I am able to run a good distance and pace, and it’s been great to mix that in with the cycling and swimming work that I have done for many years. I am feeling strong having had this time to just focus on being an athlete. I’ve learned that my job is not just to train hard but to rest hard too. In the past I have been guilty of overtraining and I needed to be smarter with it. This new mindset to my fitness feels revolutionary. 

It was, of course, disappointing not being able to race this year but I have been in this situation many times before. I didn’t compete at all between 2010 and 2014, but then I returned to racing after giving birth to my daughter. In 2018, before the launch of W Series, I was limited to test driving, so the number of races I do has never defined me and this has felt like just another year in that respect. 

I’ve barely been in a racing car this year, but I don’t need time in a car or on a track to feel that I’m strong and capable. I’ve been racing for 28 years so I know by now what I can deliver and I’m always confident because my talent is for feeling the limit of the track and the car through my whole body. That is one of the reasons why I struggled a little bit during the W Series Esports League last summer. I enjoyed having the pressure of competition again and the chance to learn some new circuits will stand me in good stead, but I am an instinctive racer, not a technical one that can rely solely on hand-eye coordination. When I’ve taken long breaks from racing in the past, I’ve always got back into the car and immediately found my pace and that is one of the reasons why I feel so confident about next season. 

It is amazing news that W Series will be racing in partnership with Formula 1 for 2021 and beyond. I’m so proud of everyone at W Series who has worked so hard to make it happen. I always hoped that something like this would come and, now that it has, I feel so happy and proud. Having a spot on motorsport’s biggest stage is exactly what we need to really showcase our talent and I’m sure that it will open more doors at the top level of our sport for so many of our current drivers and the W Series stars of tomorrow. To think we could all become elite professionals is a dream come true. I’m delighted for all the younger drivers because I know that, although the road ahead is still rocky, they are all one massive step closer. I just wish it had happened 10 years ago for me! Still, my compatriot, Kimi Raikkonen, is 10 years older than me and he is still doing it at the top level in F1, so it remains my goal to be a full-time pro. Winning the championship next year would help me achieve that.

Despite the disruption caused by the Covid pandemic, my media work here in Finland has continued to keep me busy. I still host a radio show and various corporate events, even though doing those virtually has been strange. But that stuff is a bonus and this year has reminded me what a joy and privilege it is to be an athlete for a living. I’ll enjoy some family time over Christmas but there will be no let-up in my training schedule. I’m fully focused on keeping myself fit enough to hit the ground running and win the W Series title in 2021.