Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen speaks to Ted Kravitz following the opening two races of the season.
Q: Kimi, if you had to describe yourself to someone new to Formula 1, how would you describe yourself to them?
KR: I dunno, maybe it would be easier to go to YouTube and [laughs] look something else
- What are they gonna find on YouTube?
KR: I dunno, a lot of different things.
- I think it’s probably better that they don’t go to YouTube [laughs]
KR: [smiles] I don’t mind…
Q: Would you say you’re a racing driver first – normal Finnish bloke second? Normal Finnish bloke who happens to be a racing driver?
KR: Yeah I think that order would be more right. I’ve done racing all my life but I live a normal life as I can. Do the normal things. That’s always been normal for me.
Q: It doesn’t seem to bother you though; the intrusion into your public life, everyone gets it, Lewis Hamilton gets it, Fernando Alonso gets it…
KR: I think when I was younger, in the early days in Formula 1 I got bit upset about it but I don’t really care about it because otherwise you think about it and you just get angry but I stopped that many many years ago.
Q: When you left, you talked about some of the bits you were fed up with in F1, some of it politics, some of the other rubbish that isn’t related to actual driving. Are you okay with it now?
KR: I was okay with it for ten years or so – I never liked it but I don’t think many people likes it. The racing is the main thing why I’m here, I love to race, it’s always been like that and always will be. I know how it is, for sure the Formula 1 hasn’t changed.
Mention Kimi Raikkonen to a lot of people in the UK and they’ll say “Oh yeah he’s the party animal” Is that the response you get at home?
Anette Latva-Piikkila: Well I think in Finland everyone is a bit of a party animal, we do like to party a lot and drink a little bit so in a way we don’t see it in a bad light. It’s more of “good old Kimi!”
Q: You love to race to win, nothing I can imagine beats the feeling of standing on top of the podium; is the car gonna be there to allow you to win – will you be happy fighting for 6th, 7th, 8th?
KR: It’s not so often in my career in Formula 1 that I’ve had a winning car so I mean it’s nothing new. It’s not always you in the front and just driving on your own and winning easily so… doesn’t happen too often. Hopefully we have a good car and we can challenge on the top.
Well, two races done, eighteen to go. So far it’s been more or less alright for me. I’ve been having a good time, that’s for sure.
You never know about racing; Everything can happen like the Malaysian Grand Prix showed us all. In a race while it rains like that and they stop it for a while, it opens up a chance for the handicapped cars, too. If you get your timing perfectly right, you get a free road, see well and you can fight for the top place. Wish it would have been us… But it’s useless to get too thrilled afterwards while, obviously, it doesn’t change the result any more.
The team has been working very hard to keep us going to the right direction. Obviously, we have a good and solid car to work with. It’s been quick everywhere. The weather and some happenings in the course of race weekends have not done us any favours, but that’s motor racing. You just have to deal with what ever occurs and try to get best out of it.
We had some work to do after Friday sessions. The car was not working properly. We lacked downforce, there was something wrong with the floor and we didn’t have KERS on our long run in the afternoon. The boys did very well. They put a new floor, changed the set-up and then the car felt much better from then on. It was a shame the gearbox had some overheating issue in Melbourne. The team decided to avoid all the risks of DNF in the race, so they decided to change it before P3. Obviously, that meant a penalty of losing 5 places in the grid.
The car was very good in the qualifying. I made a mistake in the final run in Q3 while exiting the corner. We lost there some time, so it could have been better than fifth, fourth or even third. I felt the speed was there in the car. Obviously, it was a good car to qualify!
The race was one of those typical gambles in the torrential rain of the tropic. For me it was my debut with the rain tyres. While the lights went off, I had to take it easy, because I simply didn’t know how the tyres are behaving. Obviously, we had done only one installation lap before with the wet tyre, so we didn’t even know how to adjust the front wing for the wet race. But, the start went ok, actually we managed to gain a few places, but then there was an incident with a couple of cars in front of me, so I had to go to the grass again like in Australia to avoid them. I lost some places, but we made it through the first lap, any way.
The car was good. After the safety-car situation I was behind Vettel. We could easily follow the Red Bull and we were faster in some places, they were faster in some other places. It was too tricky to try to pass him, so we just sat there and waited for the track to dry up. The rest of the race with slicks was more or less about keeping the P5.
We could have gone faster, but it became so dark, it was very difficult to see where are wet spots in the track. So it was better to seal the position and not to take too many risks. Now we have 16 points. It’s better than nothing, but it could have been better. The best feeling is coming from the car.
Obviously, we will get some new parts for the next race in China, so it should keep us competitive in Shanghai, too.
Lotus Cars Lebanon welcomed the 2007 Formula One World Champion to Beirut in style, throwing an exclusive party at the MAD nightclub and toasting the future of Lotus in the region. The ‘Lotus is Back’ event was also attended by a few lucky F1 fans, who got to press up against Lotus’ speediest models.
The legendary marque is opening a new dealership in Beirut in partnership with leading Lebanese automotive dealer RYMCO and luxury real estate and management company Zardman. Lotus’ acclaimed Evora, Elise and Exige are set to quicken the heartbeat of one of the most exciting cities in the Middle East.
Kimi Räikkönen: “It was a great first visit to Beirut and a lot of fun to join the Lotus Car Lebanon team and launch the marque here. Lotus is a really special car company with big ambitions and part of that is returning to Formula One, another is spreading the word around the world.”
Dany Bahar, CEO, Group Lotus: “The Middle East is a market of huge potential to Lotus and Beirut is a very strong location for us. There were a lot of competitive bids to host Lotus here, and I am very happy that we’ve agreed to partner with Zardman and RYMCO who I’m confident will represent our brand perfectly and give customers a fantastic experience here in Lebanon. This is an important step in Lotus’ international sales plans.”
Fayez Rasamny, Chairman, Lotus Cars Lebanon: “This is a very exciting night for sports car aficionados in Lebanon, and indeed for racing fans. Thank you to Kimi Räikkönen for his special visit, and thank you to Group Lotus for returning to the region and bringing their wonderful cars. We really wanted to be the ones to bring this legendary automotive brand to Lebanon. The Lebanese are massively into premium sports cars and Lotus’ racing heritage. I’m confident Lotus Cars Lebanon is going to be a huge success.”
View more pictures in the gallery.
In a huge event at ‘MAD’ nightclub, Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus CEO Dany Bahar were interviewed by the host and later on the champagne was opened celebrating the Lotus return:
2007 Formula 1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen made a surprising visit to the Lebanese president Michel Sleiman earlier today.
Kimi, along with a group of high personnel from Lotus, vowed to put the Lebanese flag on his Formula 1 car during Grand Prix weekends around the world.
The Finnish F1 driver is set to launch Lotus Cars tonight in Beirut, stay tuned at Biser3a.com for live updates of the event!
A short video of Kimi Raikkonen during Lotus’ launch of their first Middle Eastern branch in Beirut:
Picture courtesy of John Hajjar:
After one-off Albert Park and mixed-conditions Sepang, we know that McLaren and Red Bull have race-winning pace, Mercedes still has issues with tyre degradation and Fernando Alonso somehow leads the world championship with a prancing horse more akin to a donkey. Sauber has 30 points on the board already, but is anyone coming in under the radar?
For me, it’s Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus. A mixture of errors and bad luck disguised Kimi’s potential in the opening two races, but the potential is there.
In Australia, Raikkonen finished a fighting seventh, but his race was compromised by the failure to escape Q1.
In preparation for the twilight race, qualifying was run with the sun low in the Melbourne sky. Race engineer Mark Slade explains: “He had a problem with his visor because of the light conditions and wanted to change his helmet. Unfortunately we were on a very tight schedule and there just wasn’t time to get it done.
“We thought we’d get two timed laps in and his first was looking very good until he ran wide coming out of Turn 12. He still thought we had time for three laps and I hadn’t been sharp enough in telling him no, you haven’t.
“It was a real shame because he should have been in Q3, and who knows what we could have done from there. But I’d been out of the game six months and him two years, so perhaps a bit of ring rust…”
Slade has been around the block. He started trackside in 1994 with Martin Brundle at McLaren, then Mark Blundell, then was Mika Hakkinen’s race engineer from ’98 until the Finn retired at the end of 2001. He ran Raikkonen from 2002 until Kimi left McLaren at the end of ’06.
“I then had Fernando Alonso for a year, which I really enjoyed until he unfortunately left, then Heikki Kovalainen for two seasons, then Vitaly Petrov for a season here at Renault, then Mercedes with Michael, which lasted only 10 races before politics got in the way a little bit. Nothing to do with Michael, I hasten to add, he was a pleasure to work with.”
Slade had gone into a factory-based role at Mercedes after so long on the road, Hungary 2011 being his 300th grand prix. He was just getting used to seeing more of his family when he got a call from Sir Jackie Stewart, now consulting to Lotus owners Genii Capital, about Raikkonen.
Having worked with so many championship-winning drivers, Slade knew how motivating that is.
“Kimi is probably the one I’ve had the closest relationship with,” he says, “although I felt I got on well with all of them. With guys of that calibre you know that the effort you put in is going to be returned in spades by their commitment. That’s what makes it all worthwhile.
“I had really liked my year with Renault as it then was – they’re a really enjoyable bunch of people to work with – so the prospect of working for this team, with Kimi, was the best it could be, really.
“I think they went through a rough patch last year and people were naturally a little concerned about the future. A lot of them have kids and you have to look out for yourself a little bit. Which is a shame because we’re in really good shape I think. Or that’s the impression I get.”
Technical chief James Allison candidly admitted that he would not have gone the front-exhaust route in 2011 if he’d known what he later discovered about the Pirelli tyres. So, from a flawed, disconnected 2011 chassis, and with impressive simulation and computing capability, the potential for a step was there. And while Lotus perhaps could not replace Robert Kubica, it needed to get as close as possible.
“I think some people were not sure Kimi was coming back for the right reasons,” Slade says, “but I was pretty confident that if he was calling me up to ask if I wanted to get involved, he wasn’t going to let me down and was completely serious.
“I never worried about that and I don’t think he’s changed. I think he’s the same young kid who was a superstar when he arrived on the scene. There was instantly a maturity in his driving and an approach to engineering the car that outstrips many of his contemporaries.”
Lotus was very quickly convinced by Raikkonen in testing.
“He looks as fit as he’s ever been and is absolutely at the top of his game as far as I can see,” Slade opines. (more…)
Back in 2009 when the Malaysian Grand Prix was red flagged after a deluge (déjà vu anyone?), Kimi famously left his car and had an ice cream whilst other drivers sat huddled on the grid.
#SepangSundae the ice cream cometh….
Classic Kimi…and too good an opportunity for our communications department to turn down!
With similar weather conditions looming on Sunday, Lotus F1 Team delivered an ice cream to every journalist in the media centre just before the start of the race, together with a note from Kimi “Please enjoy this ice cream”.
The PR stunt was very well received by the media – not only did they enjoy the refreshing chocolate-flavored ice cream but the operation quickly gathered momentum on social networks; #SepangSundae was trending globally on twitter over the weekend!
’Iceman’ Kimi Raikkonen on Sunday proved he is not without a sense of humour.
The last time he was at Sepang, in 2009, the Ferrari driver caused raucous laughter in the F1 media centre when the global television feed showed him enjoying a chocolate ice-cream and can of coke.
The rest of the field was damply awaiting the race’s re-start on the sodden grid.
There were similar conditions looming in Malaysia on Sunday, and so the Lotus team delivered a present from Raikkonen to each member of the travelling press corps just before the 2012 race.
Along with the chocolate treat, a note from Raikkonen read: “Please enjoy this ice cream”.
AFP Asia sports editor Talek Harris said his was delicious.
Kimi runs through his first wet weather experience in the E20, after another resilient race performance saw the Finn climb five places, and take home a useful haul of points for the team
Q: Kimi, it was a pretty eventful race out there today. How was it from where you were sitting?
KR: I was a big handicapped to be honest as I didn’t know what to expect from the tyres. I’d only done one installation lap on the intermediates before today so it was tricky to predict how the car would behave. I spent the first part of the race trying to explore the limits and pushing as far as I felt comfortable without going off the track. My visor got so dirty in the opening laps it was hard to even see anything, especially with the spray. When you look at the whole weekend fifth isn’t a bad result but we’ll be looking for more at the next race.
Q: While you may have been hoping for more, in such an unpredictable race it must be satisfying to bring home some points for the team?
KR: It’s good to get more points on the board and obviously P5 is an improvement on qualifying after the penalty, but I think with more knowledge of the wet tyres we could have been further up. Once we switched to the slicks the pace was very good, so under different conditions today had the potential to be a very strong race for us.
Q: When the race was stopped and you climbed out of the car to shelter from the rain, did it bring back memories from 2009? Were you tempted to grab a Coke and an ice cream?
KR: [Laughs] Not this time; the difference today was that I was still in the race so no need!
Q: Two good race performances under your belt now on different tracks and varying conditions; does this give you confidence going to China?
KR: Hopefully we can have a ‘normal’ race weekend with no penalties, crazy weather or other setbacks! It would be good to have a trouble free weekend so we can see where we really stand, as it’s hard to tell after the first two races with so many factors affecting our results. We seem to have a very strong package, we just need the chance to really show what we can do over a whole weekend.
Kimi Raikkonen says he is eager to have a ‘normal’ grand prix weekend to figure out where Lotus stands, after adding a fifth place at Sepang to his seventh-place finish in Melbourne. The Formula 1 returnee started 17th in Australia after a mistake and a timing misjudgement, then had to take a gearbox change grid penalty at Sepang which put him 10th on the grid, before recovering for a top five finish in the wet/dry race.
KR: “Hopefully we can get a normal race next time. All the time there is something going wrong or the weather changes a lot. It would be nice to just have a normal weekend and just see where we are. Right now, nobody really knows where anybody is. But we seem to have a pretty strong package everywhere. I didn’t have any experience on the inter tyres or the wet tyres. We’d only done one installation lap and it was a bit of an odd feeling to go directly into the race with tyres we hadn’t run. I just tried to stay with the others and stay on the circuit, and then pushed harder and harder. It took a few laps for me to pick up speed when I changed to dries, but after that it was OK.”
A matter of minutes before the scheduled 16:00 start time, the grid became a flurry of activity as rain began to fall on the grid. Within seconds the track was sufficiently damp to warrant a switch onto intermediate tyres before the lights went out.
Romain got a phenomenal start, launching well and using his KERS to weave his was up to P3 on the run down to the first corner. However the Frenchman’s poor fortunes from Australia continued as contact with Schumacher at turn 5 left him facing the oncoming traffic, subsequently dropping to P20. Things were to get even worse for Romain, as severe aquaplaning through turn 5 on just the third lap sent him backwards into the gravel and out of the race.
Conversely, Kimi struggled to get his E20 off the line, but managed to find a path through the confusion that unfurled during the first few corners to sit in P9 at the end of the first lap. Huge forks of lightning and torrential rain ensued, as the safety car emerged to bring some calm to proceedings. As giant raindrops continued to fall Kimi pitted for wets, falling to P13 before an immense downpour brought out the red flags and a break in the action of almost hour.
After a safety car restart the team immediately brought the Finn in for an early switch over to intermediate tyres, which proved the right call as Kimi moved up 3 places during the stops, with another position gained as Button collided with Karthikeyan. Progress continued for the former World Champion, as he jumped up to P6 by lap 16 as rivals once again dove into the pit lane for fresh rubber.
With the DRS enabled on lap 20, Kimi honed in on the back of Vettel, following the German past his compatriot Nico Rosberg on lap 24, pulling off a superb move around the outside of turn 1 after engaging the DRS down the straight.
As the laps fell away, Webber began to pile on the pressure as the team chose to remain on the intermediate tyres despite a drying track, with further rain forecast in the coming moments. Unfortunately this was not to be, and having final pitted for slicks on lap 41 Kimi was jumped by Webber who came in 1 lap earlier to put on the dry tyres.
Having withstood further pressure from Senna and Di Resta, the Finn jumped another place as a puncture for Vettel on lap 47 moved him back up to P5.
The remainder of the race was a lonesome affair, and in clear air Kimi set the fastest time of the day on lap 51, and then again on lap 54 to become the only driver in the 1 minute 40 second bracket by the time the chequered flag dropped.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS Classified: Pos--Driver-------Team-----------------------Time 1. Alonso Ferrari 2h44:51.812 2. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 2.263 3. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 14.591 4. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 17.688 5. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 29.456 6. Senna Williams-Renault + 37.667 7. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 44.412 8. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 46.985 9. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes + 47.892 10. Schumacher Mercedes + 49.996 11. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 1:15.527 12. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:16.800 13. Rosberg Mercedes + 1:18.500 14. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 1:19.700 15. Massa Ferrari + 1:39.300 16. Petrov Caterham-Renault + 1 lap 17. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap 18. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 1 lap 19. Maldonado Williams-Renault + 2 laps 20. Pic Marussia-Cosworth + 2 laps 21. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps 22. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 2 laps Fastest lap: Raikkonen, 1:40.722 Not classified/retirements: Driver-------Team---------------------On lap Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 47 Grosjean Lotus-Renault 4 World Championship standings, round 2: Drivers:--------------------Constructors: 1. Alonso 35 1. McLaren-Mercedes 55 2. Hamilton 30 2. Red Bull-Renault 42 3. Button 25 3. Ferrari 35 4. Webber 24 4. Sauber-Ferrari 30 5. Perez 22 5. Lotus-Renault 16 6. Vettel 18 6. Force India-Mercedes 9 7. Raikkonen 16 7. Williams-Renault 8 8. Senna 8 8. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 6 9. Kobayashi 8 9. Mercedes 1 10. Di Resta 7 11. Vergne 4 12. Hulkenberg 2 13. Ricciardo 2 14. Schumacher 1
Kimi Raikkonen – 5th: “It was a bit difficult today. It was my first time on the wet weather Pirellis and I didn’t know how the intermediate or wet tyres would react – I had only completed one installation lap on them before. I just tried to stay on the road and push as much as I felt comfortable with. When I changed to the dry tyres it took a couple of laps to get heat into them, and my visor was pretty dirty so seeing the dry line was difficult. Once I found my way I could push much harder. It was difficult to have another mixed weather weekend. The conditions changed a lot today so it was always a case of adapting and looking for grip. Overall, we seemed to have a pretty strong package again this weekend, so I’m relatively happy. A fifth today was okay, but we’re always looking for better results.”
Eric Boullier, Team Principal: “Today’s result is a bit frustrating. Whilst it’s good to have a car finish in the top five after starting from tenth in conditions which were very tricky, we can’t help thinking that we could have achieved more from this race. Obviously, it’s disappointing for Romain, as it’s another DNF for him in the early laps of the race. He had never driven in the rain with these intermediate tyres so we have to take that into account. He had a very good start off the line, but the contact with Michael ruined his race. At the restart, we recovered well from our position and on the plus side, the car looked strong again. Kimi had a flawless race. He was very consistent in all conditions and his best lap shows what could have been without his grid penalty. I’m sure when we have a ‘standard’ weekend – without bad weather, penalty or interruption – we will do very well.”
James Allison, Technical Director: “What we would give for a normal race! We had to fight back from a grid penalty for changing the gearbox on Kimi’s car. We also had two drivers learning Pirelli’s wet tyres for the first time today. This made for a difficult time here at Sepang. Our pace at the end of the race on dry tyres looks extremely promising from the perspective of both degradation and pace. Give us a normal race, with two clean getaways from the good qualifying positions of which we have shown we are capable, and I think we’ll be able to collect a good reward.”
Lotus F1 Team rounded off the weekend’s final practice session with a strong performance this afternoon in Malaysia as the countdown to qualifying begins. A damp start at the Sepang International circuit quickly cleared, as the shower which preceded Free Practice 3 blew over to reveal beaming sunshine and draining humidity. Nonetheless, with a significant number of wet patches around the track the team opted to send both drivers out on their install laps on the intermediate tyres.
With the standard pre-run checks complete, both Kimi and Romain remained in the garage until a combination of other cars and the sun created enough of a dry line to bolt on a set of slicks.
This they did, promptly emerging from the garage at the halfway stage on matching sets of hard compound Pirelli tyres. Romain immediately shot to the top of the time sheets, closely followed by Kimi in second as the field slowly began to venture further towards the limits of grip on the still drying circuit.
With fast times cropping up here there and everywhere, it became a challenge just to keep up with the running order as the session entered its final stages. After a practice box stop and pull away for the pair, Kimi and Romain were sent out with minutes left on the clock on the medium compound tyre.
Strong runs to end the session saw both drivers sit in the top 5 as the chequered glad dropped. Having racked up 13 laps apiece, Kimi slotted into P4 with a best time 1:37.356, with Romain fractionally behind in P5 having set a 1:37.382.
Pos-Driver--------------Team------------------Time---------------Laps 1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m36.877 16 2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m37.320s + 0.443 15 3. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m37.338s + 0.461 12 4. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m37.356s + 0.479 13 5. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m37.382s + 0.505 13 6. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m37.404s + 0.527 12 7. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m37.455s + 0.578 13 8. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m37.663s + 0.786 15 9. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m37.776s + 0.899 8 10. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m37.977s + 1.100 17 11. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m38.091s + 1.214 20 12. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m38.178s + 1.301 15 13. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m38.246s + 1.369 17 14. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m38.285s + 1.408 16 15. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m38.423s + 1.546 13 16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m38.640s + 1.763 11 17. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m38.794s + 1.917 18 18. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m39.20$s + 2.332 16 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m39.704s + 2.827 15 20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m40.189s + 3.312 14 21. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m41.901s + 5.024 14 22. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m42.007s + 5.130 14 23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m42.464s + 5.587 14 24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m43.378s + 6.501 17
On Friday night, the Lotus F1 Team hospitality unit here at the Sepang International Circuit was the victim of a fire, causing the team to abandon ship for the rest of the weekend and seek refuge elsewhere in the paddock.
After two sweltering practice sessions in the Malaysian sun, Kimi reflects on his day’s work as the team ran through an extensive race setup programme in preparation for the race on Sunday.
KR: Not bad, but it could have been better from my perspective. We struggled to find a good balance but the car felt better as the day went on and the long run went well. We had some trouble with the KERS and the team also noticed an issue with the gearbox tonight. We’ll have to change it which means losing 5 places on the grid. It’s a bit frustrating but we’re confident the car will be fixed and it’s better to have this happen now than in the race.
Q: Is the steering more to your liking now?
KR: We’re still working on the steering. We tried a new system today but there wasn’t a huge difference from how it felt in Melbourne. It’s not exactly how we want it yet but it certainly won’t be an issue.
Q: You ran the medium tyres quite early on whereas Romain waited until later to switch from the hard compound. Was there a reason for this?
KR: We just wanted to try different things with the two cars to get a better understanding of how each compound behaves at this track and I think we achieved that. We now know that the tyres start to fade a bit towards the end of the long runs but everyone found the same thing.
Q: Do you feel confident of getting into the top 10 this weekend, or perhaps even closer to the front?
KR: It’s difficult to say. We’ll do the best we can tomorrow and see where we end up. We have some work to do on the setup in morning practice but I’m sure we’ll be ready to go when Qualifying starts. The pace is there in the car; if we can unlock it there’s no reason we won’t be as strong as we were in Melbourne.
Q: Talking to your physio, he said the biggest challenge here is keeping cool; there’s no chance of the Iceman melting in this heat?
KR: [Laughs] No not at all. It’s obviously hot here in Malaysia but everyone has to cope with it and I’m sure it won’t cause us any problems. You don’t really notice it when you’re driving, it’s more when you stop at the end that it hits you!
Shortly after the session concluded, Lotus wrote on Twitter that an issue with the Finn’s gearbox meant it would be changed before the start of the third and final practice session.
The team confirmed the change to AUTOSPORT, meaning Raikkonen looks set to lose five places.
The problem arose after Raikkonen went off the track during the Australian Grand Prix, where his radiator was filled with grass clippings, thus overheating the gearbox during the race.
A post-race analysis showed the gearbox’s bearing cage had started to fail and so the team has been forced to replace it as it was unsure it would last another race distance.
The change follows an unhappy qualifying session in Australia, when the Finn failed to make it out of Q1 when he backed off a flying lap in the mistaken belief he had time to make it to the line before the chequered flag came out.
A bit more work for Kimi’s crew this evening. An issue with Kimi’s gearbox so we’re changing it now.
A clean opening run for both drivers saw the pair head straight back out on track as soon as the green flags were waved at 14:00 local time here in Malaysia. Kimi opted for the medium compound tyres, while Romain stuck with the hard compound used throughout Free Practice 1 as both drivers completed a short first stint of 5 laps.
After a brief break, Kimi departed the garage in typically flamboyant fashion, shorty followed by his team-mate. The pair both set fastest times through the first sector of the lap at different stages during their second runs, but with a focus on race setup the order of the afternoon emphasis was very much on consistency rather than single lap pace.
At the halfway stage, Romain sat 7th in the standings with Kimi in 12th after 8 and 14 laps completed respectively. An extended break while both sets of mechanics adjusted various setup elements on the E20s meant that the drivers hit the track again with 30 minutes left to go – this time with Kimi on the hard compound tyres and Romain on the medium.
While a glance at the timing boards would suggest a fairly unspectacular session for the team, running this afternoon proved to be highly productive as both drivers returned from their final runs satisfied with the setup changes made throughout the course of the day.
Kimi Raikkonen – 15th: “It was an okay day but we still have work to do on the set-up. The steering was a small improvement but we are still working in this area. I feel fine in the car in the hot conditions, and the race will take place later in the day so I don’t expect that to be a problem. I hope we will make some progress tomorrow as the car is quicker than we’ve shown. Having an issue with the KERS in the afternoon was frustrating but I’m sure we’ll have it fixed for tomorrow. The track is exactly as I remember it and I hope for a better qualifying than we had in Australia. I’m looking forward to racing here.”
James Allison, Technical Director: “In some ways it was a somewhat scrappy day after losing a tyre set on Romain’s car in the afternoon due to a cut which meant he lost some laps in the second session. He also had an incorrectly seated wheel nut in the morning. Kimi’s KERS was not playing ball for most of the second session which meant his pace was not fully representative. Those were today’s nuisances, but the positives are that the E20 is working reasonably well. We have good base set-ups for both drivers. Tyre management looks OK despite the hot conditions. The pace of the car on high fuel loads looks promising.”
Pos--Driver---------------Team------------------Time---------------Laps 1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.172 28 2. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m38.533s + 0.361 34 3. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.535s + 0.363 29 4. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m38.696s + 0.524 34 5. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m38.853s + 0.681 33 6. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m38.891s + 0.719 27 7. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m39.133s + 0.961 29 8. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m39.297s + 1.125 33 9. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m39.311s + 1.139 22 10. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m39.402s + 1.230 25 11. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m39.444s + 1.272 35 12. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m39.464s + 1.292 26 13. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m39.625s + 1.453 20 14. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m39.687s + 1.515 16 15. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m39.696s + 1.524 29 16. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m40.271s + 2.099 27 17. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m40.678s + 2.506 34 18. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m40.947s + 2.775 33 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m41.464s + 3.292 25 20. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m41.681s + 3.509 20 21. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m42.594s + 4.422 18 22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m42.874s + 4.702 24 23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m43.658s + 5.486 18 24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m43.283s + 5.561 22
At almost exactly 10:00 local time, the Lotus F1 Team E20s roared into life as both Kimi and Romain launched out of the garage for the customary install lap. Sporting matching sets of Pirelli’s hard compound tyres, the drivers ran through each turn with the engineers before heading back to base, completing an oil dip, and parking up.
24 minutes into the session, Kimi surged straight to the top of the leaderboard with a time of 1:39.128 on his first flying lap. The Finn would go on to complete a total of 6 laps during his first run before returning to the pit lane and completing a practice launch.
Unfortunately for Romain, his day did not get off to such a flying start as he boxed the car before setting a competitive time after complaining of an unsettled rear end. Thankfully there turned out to be no related issues, and his E20 was able to emerge once more after being thoroughly checked over by the mechanics.
Both drivers hit the track in formation for their second stints at the halfway point of the session. Romain immediately proved that the earlier setback had not affected his confidence by jumping straight into the top five with a 1:38.919 during a 7 lap run, while Kimi stayed out for a longer stint to end his run with the highest number of laps completed at the time – 17 in total.
Having run through just 10 laps up to that point, Romain lit up the rear tyres and flung his E20 back out onto the Sepang International Circuit with 20 minutes to go. Kimi followed suit around 6 minutes later, both once again opting for the harder compound tyre.
These proved to be the final runs for both drivers, as Romain brought his car home for a well-earned break, shortly followed by his team-mate who stopped on his marks for a practice pit stop to round off the session.
Pos--Driver---------------Team-------------------Time---------------Laps 1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.021s 19 2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m38.535s + 0.514 21 3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m38.813s + 0.792 21 4. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m38.826s + 0.805 19 5. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m38.919s + 0.898 17 6. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m39.092s + 1.071 20 7. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m39.128s + 1.107 22 8. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m39.298s + 1.277 23 9. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m39.323s + 1.302 15 10. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m39.440s + 1.419 19 11. Valterri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m39.724s + 1.703 23 12. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m39.783s + 1.762 23 13. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m39.896s + 1.875 16 14. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m39.910s + 1.889 21 15. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m39.980s + 1.959 23 16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m40.099s + 2.078 23 17. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m40.247s + 2.226 19 18. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m40.469s + 2.448 23 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m40.857s + 2.836 25 20. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m41.085s + 3.064 23 21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m43.170s + 5.149 18 22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m44.580s + 6.559 14 23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m45.360s + 7.339 8 24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m45.528s + 7.507 18
As part of an extensive promotional campaign held over the past fortnight, Proton invited the Lotus F1 Team drivers to its Centre of Excellence to meet with local media and members of Lotus Cars Club of Malaysia.
To kick off a hectic schedule of media events over the course of the day, Kimi and Romain made an appearance at the headquarters of Malaysian automotive giant Proton this morning.
The day began with a slight mix up over transportation, as the car intended for Romain arrived bang on time to collect the Frenchman, only to discover that he was in fact at a different hotel! Nonetheless after a rapid change of course (whilst obviously adhering strictly to local speed restrictions) Romain was soon on his way.
Thankfully Kimi did not suffer from the same issue, and shortly afterwards both drivers met with Proton representatives to collect their rides for the day – a pair of immaculate Evoras sporting the Lotus F1 Team livery and driver decals on the bodywork. Perhaps not the most subtle way to make an entrance, but certainly one of the more enjoyable!
Upon arrival the pair were whisked away to the top floor of the impressive structure, where they fielded questions from local media both in a formal press conference format, and then in the more informal setting of a buffet lunch, where guests were granted a more personal level of access to the drivers.
After a mouth-watering (if slightly early!) meal and a few photographs later, Kimi and Romain were lead down to the ground floor where a crowd had gathered not only around two more glistening Evoras, but also a Lotus F1 Team showcar.
Moving up to a stage positioned opposite this impressive backdrop of automotive ingenuity, the drivers took part in a Q&A session with members of Lotus Cars Club of Malaysia. After the excitable driving enthusiasts had finished quizzing the pair, an autograph session followed with both stars signing cards, books, clothing, helmets… you name it, they probably scrawled their signature on it!
The event concluded with the drivers playing their part in an auction, as each signed the dashboard of one of the Evoras on display – both of which will later be sold to the highest bidder to raise money for a good cause.
Having flown through their first commitment of the day it was time for Kimi and Romain to head to the track, where the world’s media were waiting to catch a few words in the build-up to free practice 1 and 2 tomorrow at the Sepang International Circuit.
Kimi Raikkonen will continue to work on improving his Lotus E20′s power steering in Malaysia, as he is still not happy with the feedback he is getting in the cockpit on his Formula 1 return.
The Finn missed out on track time in free practice in Australia last weekend as his team worked to give him a steering system that suited him.
In the end it could not find a solution better than the original set-up on the car, so the 2007 world champion had to get through his first weekend back without being totally comfortable.
“We have some things [to try],” Raikkonen told reporters in the Sepang paddock. “It is just a matter of getting it right.
“It is many things. It is not as I have been used to in the past, and it is not as perfect as it should be.
“The team is working hard since we knew about the issue, but it is not the easiest thing to fix. But we have a new one to try and hopefully it will be OK.”
The Finn added that overall he was happy with his Lotus, and now he has a race under his belt he doesn’t feel much has changed with the performance of Formula 1 cars since he left the sport at the end of 2009.
“The feeling is the same,” he said. “The downforce is more or less the same as it was at that time. Maybe we have more now, but handling wise it is very similar.
“In the race it was good. There are areas you want to improve, but it is never going to be perfect. You always want something better.”
Raikkonen also said he was surprised at how comfortable he felt with Pirelli’s tyres during his first race with the Italian firm’s rubber.
“The tyres were really good,” he said. “I took it easy, and probably I expected to have more problems with them.
“I didn’t have any knowledge, so I was surprised how well it went. The second set [in the race], I think we could have run the whole race with them.”
In an interview with Lotus technical director James Allison, it’s explained how the team are working hard to get the steering exactly how Kimi like’s it:
Q: How is progress in finding a steering set-up exactly to Kimi’s liking?
JA: We have a baseline steering set-up which Kimi is able to live with. It is not ideal for him, and it is our duty to ensure that we give him a system that meets his demands perfectly. We brought a new option to Melbourne for him to try but the wet weather meant that we were not able to judge whether it was a step forwards. We reverted to the “old faithful” out of an abundance of caution. We will keep persisting until we produce a set-up which is exactly to his requirements.
Q: What area specifically about the steering are the team focusing on?
JA: Each driver is different in what he wants from his steering setup. All of the drivers have a hydraulically assisted powered steering unit in the steering rack as the loads on the wheel would be intolerable otherwise. The engineers adjust the level of assistance that this unit provides to suit the individual requirements of the driver. Kimi likes to drive with quite a light steering wheel, but one which also has great precision. Our baseline rack is precise, but it is not light enough for Kimi’s driving style. Our challenge is to produce a hydraulic rack that is more powerful than the current unit, but which sacrifices none of its precision. We have not got there yet, but we will do.
Photos – Kimi arrives to circuit:
Scorching sun, intense humidity and the traditional afternoon monsoon were the order of the day in Kuala Lumpur, as the team continued preparations for this weekend’s race. Luckily there were plenty of isotonic drinks and bottles of water on hand to keep the crew hydrated for a busy day at the track.
After another late night on Tuesday, the support team had the garage and related facilities up and running ready to welcome the rest of the crew to the paddock. Compared to the ‘cosy’ environment of the Melbourne paddock the Malaysian facilities felt positively spacious, and with the climate control working in overdrive, nice and cool to boot. Of course that all changes upon stepping out into the heat of Kuala Lumpur; if only the team back at Enstone could create some kind of mobile air conditioned bubble…
Moving through the garage, the mechanics have been hard at work ensuring the cars are assembled ready for the first engine fire-up tomorrow. A host of tools, equipment and of course bodies line the pit bays as the E20s transform from a gathering of parts into the fire-breathing machines that propel Kimi and Romain around the world’s finest circuits.
As the crew continue to work away, Romain and Jérôme arrive – fresh from one of their now infamous tennis matches – and spend time around the garage catching up with the men and women who make their job possible. While it may not seem significant to the average observer, these are the moments which make the family atmosphere at Lotus F1 Team what it is. Of course, the drivers haven’t turned up just to spend all day milling around chatting – as always there’s work to be done! The main item on the agenda today is the track walk.
The Sepang International Circuit is quite something to behold from down on the tarmac itself. Long straights followed by hard braking zones, seemingly endless sweeping curves and severe undulations; it’s no wonder Romain lists this as one of his favourite tracks. What makes this venue all the more unique is that behind the immense grandstands, the forest stretches as far as the eye can see. Not a bad place to spend a weekend!
Pacing round the 5.5km circuit – with our man on the ground once again feeling the effects of one too many pies, and significantly too few sessions in the Human Performance Centre – the opportunity to listen in on Romain’s conversations with the engineers makes for an intriguing day’s exercise.
Recounting epic battles around the track from his GP2 days, studying the corners which have seen the most incidents (including Vitaly Petrov’s spectacular aerobatics last season at the exit of turn 7), and focusing on where the most time can be gained or lost, Romain is in a typically relaxed state of mind as he takes everything in his stride – no pun intended!
As for Jérôme, by the first corner he had disappeared into the distance; his competitive side clearly on display, even during a stroll round the park!
Kimi at this point was otherwise engaged, although upon our return (and after several minutes spent catching breath), a glance into the freezer back in the hospitality suite revealed a surprisingly low supply of ice-cream…
With only one day left before they take to the track, Kimi and Romain will be appearing at an event hosted by Lotus F1 Team and Proton tomorrow for a Q&A session and meet & greet with Lotus Cars Club of Malaysia members.
Lotus F1 Team looks at how the Formula 1 grid stacks up heading into round 2 of the World Championship at the Sepang International Circuit:
After one of the most inconclusive winter testing programmes in recent memory, there were a lot of questions to be answered at the season opener in Melbourne. While some were definitively put to rest, the majority of the grid still remains a relative unknown.
Starting at the front, it seems McLaren just about have the edge on the rest of the field at present, after a dominant performance in qualifying which almost resulted in a perfect weekend for the Woking squad. They will be looking to carry that momentum into the next race.
While not quite emulating the dominance of 2011 at this stage, Red Bull are undoubtedly hot on the heels of their main rivals, and a strong performance from Sebastian Vettel proves that the World Champions are not about to roll over and let their title slip away. Expect a fight back from the Milton Keynes outfit this weekend.
Behind the leading pair, it’s anyone’s guess how the next group lie after the first race. With better luck, Lotus F1 Team would almost certainly have had both cars in Q3 and pushing for top 5 places had Kimi’s qualifying issues not arisen, and Romain not been cruelly ruled out in the early stages. The aim should be to sit at the sharp end of the chasing pack in Malaysia.
Ferrari’s troubles have been well documented, with Massa only avoiding Q1 elimination thanks to Kimi’s misfortune and even Alonso having to wrestle the F2012 into the points, it seems the famous prancing horse has some catching up to do.
Mercedes have shown good pace (particularly with their straight line speed) while Williams, Force India, Sauber and Toro Rosso have all shown flashes of potential to regularly challenge in the top 10.
Beyond this unpredictable (and uncharacteristically evenly matched) group, things are slightly more predictable. Caterham have clearly made strides forward, but must push on further if they are to hang on to the coat tails of the teams in front.
Marussia will be pleased to have made the grid after their trials and tribulations over the winter, and will look to build on that in Malaysia. HRT on the other hand have suffered a disappointing start by failing to qualify in Australia – a situation they will hopefully rectify for this weekend’s race.
Of course one race does not make a season, however with such a close field and a host of world class talent on show, 2012 looks set to be a closely run battle throughout the paddock.
The heat is on!
It’s signed, sealed and delivered with the Australian Grand Prix. Right now I’m trying to get grips with the next challenge here in the hot and humid equatorial climate of Malaysia. Obviously, it was very nice and rewarding to open the season with some good points.
Honestly, I didn’t know that much what to expect from the first race weekend after two years’ break. We got a good feeling in the car since the day one in Jerez, but you never know exactly how competitive the new equipment is compared to other new cars. Well, now we know a little bit, at least.
I always felt I could make a return to Grand Prix racing, but, I can confess now, I got some good answers to my own minor doubts how quickly you can adapt the racing rhythm after being away for some time. The speed is there. That’s ok. The car is good. That’s ok, as well. Some issues were to be improved, especially in the qualifying routine.
I knew already before going to Melbourne, that it takes some time to get everything together in the best way with all the new things there are with tactical and mechanical part of the whole qualifying procedure. On Saturday I wasn’t happy at all. We had some issues that put as in a very poor situation to start the race. All in all, I’ve got a perfect start from the line and, obviously, it could have been very good for the race. But the first corner mess-up with some cars took my advantage away, I had to back-off and we had to build up again the race to reach the TOP-10. The first set of tyres didn’t feel that good, but then I saw the other people having even more problems with them, so I just sat back and went for it. It was quite tricky to get past the cars. The DRS doesn’t help that much in Albert Park-like circuit and while I was battling against Saubers, they were too strong coming out of the last corner, where the DRS zones started. The safety-car situation didn’t help, as well. I’ve got a set of brand new tyres, but after the race re-started, it was very difficult to get them working properly.
Finally everything went well. We got some places back in the last lap and I was quite satisfied finishing seventh in that first race. As a team we know, we have a solid and consistent car to work with.
It’s nice to have a race again this week. Sepang is the place with some nice memories for me, while we won a Malaysian Grand Prix both with McLaren and Ferrari.
The heat is a little bit too much, but it’s the same for everybody. I just sit back again, put my head down and try to get the best out of the car and myself, too. The heat is on!
Eric Boullier, Lotus team principal: “Sepang will be a totally different track from Albert Park of course. This said, we think that the E20 should be competitive there. One of its bigger assets is very low tyre degradation. Considering the very hot conditions in Malysia, this can only be a help. We think we can be competitive there.”
James Allison, Lotus technical director: “Although slightly unusual, Albert Park is actually not a bad weather vane for the season. Its range of corner speeds and traction demands means that cars which are quick in Melbourne tend to do OK over the remainder of the season. The next race will be much hotter, which poses different challenges for the cars, the tyres and the drivers, but we are confident that our Melbourne form, coupled with our reasonable pace in Jerez and Barcelona, will translate into a competitive showing in Malaysia. We don’t have any big upgrades to the car. It is a tight turnaround with a back to back race and we will be concentrating on finding a good setup with the package we have to make sure that we are using the tyres well. Sepang is quite challenging in this regard, due the high track temperatures that we can expect.”
Alan Permane, Lotus trackside operations director: “The track surface is very abrasive, particularly in comparison to Albert Park, which is very smooth. High speed stability is an essential requirement of the tyre in Malaysia due to the circuit layout, which contains some long straights and quick direction changes.”
It’s no secret that Top Gear are fans of the Iceman. So in the March issue of the subscriber’s magazine they have included a feature on Kimi Raikkonen’s F1 comeback, check it out!
Q. How did it feel coming back to Formula 1 after two years away? Did you find it easy getting into the groove with a new car, new tyres and the DRS?
Kimi Raikkonen: To be honest it didn’t feel any different to when I last raced. There have been a few rule changes but the racing itself is very similar. The DRS is easier to use in the race than in practice or qualifying because there are only certain places you can activate it, whereas in the other sessions people will try to push the limits of how early they can use it which can easily lead to a mistake if you are too aggressive.
Q. Given your performance and where Romain managed to qualify in Australia, how much potential do you feel the E20 has?
KR: The car feels very good. In the race I was stuck in traffic a lot so it didn’t show so much, and who knows what might have happened if we had a better grid a slot. There is a lot of speed in the car.
Q. You came on the radio shouting about the blue flags…
KR: I was just wondering what was going on as they kept showing it to me! I assumed it was for the car behind that I’d just overtaken but it seemed to go on for a few laps so I wanted to know why they were still waving at me!
Q. With round 1 now done and dusted, what are your thoughts moving on to Malaysia?
KR: I’m happy to get the first race out of the way. We’ll be trying to improve our performance in Malaysia for sure. We don’t know how the car will behave there but it’s been good everywhere so far so hopefully it’ll be the same there. It’ll be hot and humid which is a challenge but we have a good car. As long as qualifying goes well we could be fighting for podiums. We’ll have to wait and see.
Q. Sepang as a circuit is quite different from Albert Park as a track?
KR: You still need a good car and that looks to be what we have. Hopefully we’ll have a smoother weekend than we did in Australia with no mistakes. We won’t know how the car will perform until we get out on track, but it’s been good everywhere else so far. Hopefully it’ll be the same in Malaysia.
Q. What are your main memories of Sepang as a circuit?
KR: Malaysia has been good and bad for me in the past; I’ve had a few bad races there but I’ve also won three times at the circuit including my first Grand Prix victory so it’s nice to go back to where it all began. It’s hot and humid which makes it a challenge for the drivers, but it’s the same for everyone.
Q. With two long straights forming part of the circuit layout, is this a track which will lend itself to overtaking with the DRS and KERS systems?
KR: I haven’t used the DRS here before so I’m not sure how much use it will be, but our car is good in a straight line so hopefully it can help us out in the race. We’ll have to wait and see.
Q. Do you feel like you’re getting the most out of the E20 at this stage?
KR: There’s much more to come. We’re learning about the car all the time and the last race didn’t really give us the chance to use its full potential. Hopefully Malaysia will be a bit more straightforward.
Although Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean endured frustrations in qualifying and the race respectively to leave the team well adrift of the podium, Lotus chiefs are upbeat about the platform it has for 2012.
Team principal Eric Boullier told Autosport: “The result was not as rewarding as I would like, for all of the effort we have put in, but if we are able to qualify well [Grosjean] and then race well [Raikkonen] it is promising for the future. If we don’t have any stupid race incidents, then we can deliver a strong performance.”
Although Grosjean’s early exit after a collision with Pastor Maldonado meant there was no proper indication of his potential in the race, Raikkonen was able to deliver some impressive lap times as he climbed up from 17th on the grid to finish seventh.
But although Raikkonen’s pace was often a match for race winner Jenson Button, Boullier was not getting too carried away as the team packed up and headed for Malaysia.
“We need to look at the race as a whole, but Kimi had a good race and Romain was definitely up to speed so he could have done a very strong race as well,” he added. “It is promising for the future, but we will see.”
Technical director James Allison told Autosport that although a strong performance in Melbourne is no guarantee that a car will be quick elsewhere, he was upbeat about what he has seen.
“You normally look at who does well here and they will do okay all year,” said Allison. “We were alright in Jerez, we were alright in Barcelona and we were alright here, so I am pretty happy overall.
“Last year was a pretty tough ride for everyone in the team, grinding out the year with [a car concept] we knew we were trapped with. So to bounce back from this and the [chassis] troubles we had in the first Barcelona test, to show that we can come here and get this done, is great.”
Q: Congratulations Kimi, that performance must make you one of the heroes of the day?
KR: (Laughs) I don’t know about that, but today went pretty well. Yesterday we made some mistakes which cost us quite a bit so it could easily have been better. We had the safety car which I think actually hurt us a bit as well. I made a good start but then there was an accident in front of me at the first turn, so we lost a few places there as I had to almost stop and move onto the grass to avoid it. That made the race harder again as we had the speed, but a lot of traffic to get through.
When you look at all these things we could have finished in a much better position, so overall the weekend was far from ideal. The good thing is that the car was handling well and to come back to 7th was not a bad result. It at least means we came away with some points and made a big improvement from Saturday.
Q: How did it feel coming back to Formula 1 after two years away? Did you find it easy getting into the groove with a new car, new tyres and the DRS?
KR: To be honest it didn’t feel any different to when I last raced. There have been a few rule changes but the racing itself is very similar. The DRS is easier to use in the race than in practice or qualifying because there are only certain places you can activate it, whereas in the other sessions people will try to push the limits of how early they can use it which can easily lead to a mistake if you are too aggressive.
I wouldn’t say the cars themselves have changed that much. Obviously they are different to when I was last racing in 2009, but every year the teams must design a new car so it’s like starting over again each season. The tyres seem fine so far as well, so overall it’s all been a fairly smooth.
Q: You came on the radio asking the team about the blue flags; what happened there?
KR: Nothing at all really, I was just wondering what was going on as they kept showing me the flags but I knew the gap to the leader was nowhere near a whole lap! I assumed it was for the car behind that I’d just overtaken but it seemed to go on for a while, so I was trying to find out why they were still waving at me!
Q: Given your performance today and where Romain managed to qualify yesterday, how much potential do you feel the E20 has?
KR: Like I said throughout testing and yesterday as well, the car feels very good. Today I was mostly stuck in traffic so it didn’t show so much, and who knows what might have happened if we had a better grid slot, but there is a lot of speed in the car. We just need to avoid putting ourselves in a position like we were in after qualifying yesterday.
Q: With round 1 now done and dusted, what are your thoughts moving on to Malaysia?
KR: I’m happy to get the first race out of the way. We’ll be trying to improve our performance in Malaysia for sure. We don’t know how the car will behave there but it’s been good everywhere so far so hopefully it’ll be the same again. It’ll be hot and humid which is a challenge but we have a good car, so as long as we don’t make the same kind of mistakes again in qualifying I think we have a chance to fight for podiums. We’ll have to wait and see.
Kimi Raikkonen (7th): “It feels like I’ve never been away. Yesterday we made some mistakes which cost us quite badly so it could easily have been better in the race. I made a good start but then there was an accident in front of me at the first turn, so we lost a few places there as I had to almost stop and move onto the grass to avoid it. That made the race harder again as we had the speed, but a lot of traffic to get through. When you look at all these things we could have finished in a much better position. We had the safety car which I think actually hurt us a bit as well. Overall the weekend was far from ideal, but the car feels good and to come back to 7th means we at least come away with some points.”
Romain Grosjean (DNF): “I think we could have achieved a great result today. It’s frustrating as I really wanted to make the chequered flag and even the podium, but on the positive side the car is performing very well. I was keeping pace with the guys in front of me and everything was looking good. My start wasn’t great so we’ll need to have a look at the data. Then of course there was the collision with Pastor (Maldonado). From what I saw he braked far too late and hit my right front wheel which broke the steering and that was it; my race was over. The team deserved better because they have been working very hard, but by tomorrow morning it will all be a memory. We’ll move on to Malaysia now which is one of my favourite circuits and focus on getting a result there.”
James Allison, Lotus technical director: “Though we may have some disappointment from the race, when you look at the weekend overall we can be proud about how the car, team and our drivers have performed as it’s a much more satisfying story. Starting from P3 on the grid, we hoped for something better than P7. However, for Kimi to have converted his rather lowly grid position into a handful of points gives us some consolation. Most importantly, however, the car looks quick and we are optimistic of bringing home strong results with both cars in Malaysia.”
Eric Boullier, Lotus team principal: “We should be leaving Australia with mixed feelings, but actually we all have a little grin on our faces tonight. Yes, we had great expectations from Romain after his third position in qualifying, and seeing another car taking him out of the race early on was very disappointing. But on the other hand, the performance shown by the E20 this weekend makes us optimistic for the rest of the season. The team has produced a very solid car, responsive to set-up changes, and quick. It has been a tough winter, and I’d like to congratulate everybody at Enstone for their hard work which seems to have paid off. I’m proud to be part of a team that can take blows like we suffered in 2011 and still bounce back to show what we are made of. Kimi has been able to demonstrate that we have more than just single-lap pace; gaining 11 places in his first race after a two-year break is certainly a satisfying performance. We’re now all looking forward to Sepang, a completely different track, where we hope we’ll be able to put on another decent show. We think there’s definitely more to come from us.”
Classified: Pos--Driver-------Team-----------------------Time 1. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1h34:09.565 2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 2.100 3. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 4.000 4. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 4.500 5. Alonso Ferrari + 21.500 6. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 36.700 7. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 38.000 8. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 39.400 9. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 39.500 10. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 39.700 11. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 39.800 12. Rosberg Mercedes + 57.600 13. Maldonado Williams-Renault + 1 lap 14. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap 15. Pic Marussia-Cosworth + 2 laps 16. Senna Williams-Renault + 4 laps Fastest lap: Button, 1:29.187 World Championship standings, round 1: Drivers----------------------Constructors: 1. Button 25 1. McLaren-Mercedes 40 2. Vettel 18 2. Red Bull-Renault 30 3. Hamilton 15 3. Sauber-Ferrari 12 4. Webber 12 4. Ferrari 10 5. Alonso 10 5. Lotus-Renault 6 6. Kobayashi 8 6. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 2 7. Raikkonen 6 7. Force India-Mercedes 1 8. Perez 4 9. Ricciardo 2 10. Di Resta 1
Kimi’s funny team radio about blue flags: