My tenth season in Formula One is about to be finished. It has been a good year. We have had some good weekends and some not that good ones; But all in all, you never have a perfect season in this sport, so a decent series of races with good points collected from them, makes me feel happy.
The last, but not the least, is the Brazilian Grand Prix. I have never raced there so late, in the end of November, but it seems to give the same exciting challenge like always. My target is the get to the podium; it would be my eight time this year, if we get it right.
We push until the very end to have a good weekend for this one, too. I know it doesn’t help a single bit for 2013, but it’s a nice feeling to go to a holiday with some good racing under your belt from Brazil.
The greatest day of my life ever happened in October 2007, while I won the world championship in Brazil. Interlagos is probably the furthest track measured from my home, but the memories I’ve got there, makes it a very fond place for me forever.
Obviously Interlagos is one of the old-type of racing circuits I like very much. You never know, what happens during a Grand Prix weekend, and in Brazil, you have to be twice as well prepared to meet all kinds of changing circumstances and the most surprising incidents.
The car should be ok for this circuit. We have tested it until the very last FP3 in Austin, and this time we can run it for the Brazil challenge only. We hope for a clean and solid weekend with no problems in practice, a nice clean lap in qualifying and then a strong race with the good start.
You need good strong all round package and good behaving engine for this circuit. The first and the final corner are a challenge of their own, while we end up the lap coming from a corner leading on to the steep main straight.
Being the last race of the season means that it’s the last chance to enjoy a race feeling for some time.
After the highs of Abu Dhabi, sixth position in Austin didn’t quite deliver the wanted digestif for our Iceman. No matter, as he now heads to one of his favourite racing destinations…
Q: Looking back to Austin, what are your thoughts on the race ?
KR: It was okay but not a very easy one for us. I got a bad start and then I touched with a Force India at the second corner so I lost a few more places. After that the car was okay and I could get past some of the others. The difficult part of the race was when it became cloudy. It got too cold and the tyres stopped working for me. Then it was sunny and they started to work again, so really we were just depending on the tyres and that’s what made all the difference. The circuit was giving good racing and there were a lot of places to overtake ; for us the issue was just keeping heat in the tyres.
Q: You had a pretty exciting battle with Jenson Button…
KR: Yes it was good and I enjoy that type of racing. Unfortunately, Jenson caught me when it was cloudy and the tyres weren’t working so well, otherwise I’d have put up a better fight and maybe he wouldn’t have got past even though he was on much newer tyres. That’s how it goes. We struggled with the tyres all weekend ; we set good times at the start of the race with the softer tyres, but lost the heat with the hards in the middle of the race and then they picked up again at the end.
Q: What are your memories from Interlagos ?
KR: There is no doubt about it ; the greatest day of my career came at Interlagos when I won the World Championship in 2007 and that means I have very fond memories of this place. All in all it has been good to me. I have finished here every year since 2003 and been on the podium five times. Actually, in 2003 they gave the winners’ trophy to me but afterwards it turned out I only got P2. I have lived some of the best moments of my life at this circuit, and that’s something nobody can take away. That’s why it is one of my favourite places to go back to.
Q: What’s the main challenge of the track ?
KR: To do well in São Paulo you need to have a very solid weekend without problems. Obviously, qualifying on the front row is very important as is a good strong all round package. Also, the engine is important for getting up the hill. I think the key factor is once again downforce, but it’s also important to have a stable car under braking. The final corner is very important to get right, because it leads onto the steep main straight.
Q: How do you rate this track ?
KR: I like the old fashioned type of circuits. Interlagos is not in the same group as Spa or Suzuka, but it’s challenging and we run the laps anti clock-wise which is different from normal. The atmosphere from the crowds is always very good and you never know how the race will be as the weather changes quickly and often.
Q: Is it nice to reach race twenty in your comeback season without any DNFs ?
KR: I like racing, so it’s good to be on track as much as possible ; no-one likes ending a race early. Our record shows that the team can build a reliable car and that I know how to drive it. The last round of the season means that it’s the last chance to enjoy that feeling for some time. That’s what a driver loves ; to put a helmet on and go racing. Every time I get in the car I want to fight for victory and this is no different ; I want to celebrate a good result with the team in Brazil. That would give the best feeling for the winter and also for next season.
Q. Gentlemen, a question to you all to start with: what are your impressions of the circuit so far; your feelings about being back in America. What it’s like to be back here?
KR: I’ve only seen the video from when they did the demo run here, but I haven’t seen the circuit itself. I will see tomorrow how it goes.
Q. You won’t even walk the circuit this afternoon?
KR: I don’t know yet. I’ll have to see.
Q. After the comment from the last grand prix, it’s good to see…
KR: Well, I mean, if I found a golf cart or something.
Q. Kimi, winner of the last grand prix, what has changed in terms of your feeling coming to a grand prix. Has anything changed?
KR: Not really. Of course the team is happy, I’m happy that we finally win but it’s a new place, new race again and we try to do the best. I don’t expect we suddenly going to start winning or being in front. Probably it’s going to be very similar to where we’ve been in the last races in top five and then go from there and see what happens.
Q. Have they all brought their T-shirts with them?
KR: I don’t know, I just arrived here. I don’t know yet.
Q. (Pierre van Vliet – F1i Magazine) Lewis and Kimi: if you have a winning package this weekend – if after qualifying you realise you have a chance, what can you do not to disturb the World Championship battle between these two?
LH: Go for it Kimi, I would love to hear what you have to say.
KR: We try to do the best that we can as a team in the race, and wherever we end up, if we take some points out of either of them, that’s racing, that’s life. We don’t try to disturb anything, we’re just doing our normal race and see what happens. I’m not looking who is there or if I’m taking points from them or somebody else. We just try to win, if not, score as much as we can.
LH: It was a good answer. Yeah. We have no means to try and get in the way of anyone, but we want to beat them, we’re still fighting for position in the championship, even though we’re not fighting for the top position so we just have to focus on our job. Kimi did a great job in the last race. I think we were very strong as well, hopefully we will have less reliability issues this weekend and hopefully we can compete right at the front with all these guys.
Q. (Carlos Miguel – La Gaceta) Question for Kimi, Pedro, Lewis and Segio; between Sebastian and Fernando, who would be your bet for the championship?
KR: I think whoever scores most points will get it and deserves it. Right now Sebastian is in a bit of a stronger position but we’ve seen before many times that you have one bad race and things are completely different.
We Can Work It Out
Finally we showed what we can do, while we got everything together during a Grand Prix weekend at Abu Dhabi. The car had the speed to win. We just needed to get it to clean air to get the speed out of it.
Winning the Grand Prix meant a lot for all of us. We proved ourselves in a time, while the focus is more and more for the next year.
I made a new deal with the Lotus F1 Team, and now we know, we have a contract with a winning team. Obviously, it was a different activity, when we joined forces with them a year ago.
Now we head for the last two races of the season. This weekend we will have a long-awaited Grand Prix back in USA. I never won in Indianapolis, so winning in the States would be a brand new experience for me.
Obviously, winning is always a very tricky task and it’s better to wait and see, how it goes in Austin and leave the speculations for the media.
This will be the third new circuit for me this year. This time it’s a new one for everybody, so all of us start from zero on Friday morning collecting the experience from this place.
I don’t know anything about Austin, just the name Circuit of the Americas, but I think we will see some similiar characteristics in this circuit compared to some other new venues, while they are all designed by the same man.
I have always liked to go the new places. I’m looking forward to this one, especially as I enjoy the American atmosphere.
Actually it’s only 18 months since my last race on US soil, while I went to try the NASCAR and I did a couple of races on the Charlotte oval. I really liked it a lot.
After seeing the excitement of the American fans of NASCAR, I hope people will enjoy Formula One racing in Texas, too.
Video: Onboard with Lotus F1 Team third driver Jérôme D’Ambrosio, the first man to drive the brand new Circuit of the Americas…
Formula 1 track designer Hermann Tilke believes the spectacular layout of the new United States Grand Prix track could provide one of the biggest challenges of the season for drivers and teams.
As F1 prepares for its first race at the new Circuit of the Americas, Tilke thinks that the venue’s configuration – which includes the dramatic rising blind apex of Turn 1 and cambered high-speed sections – will not be easy to conquer.
“I think there are some real difficult parts of this track, and hopefully it will be one of the most challenging,” Tilke said in an exclusive interview with AUTOSPORT ahead of this weekend’s race.
“Turn 1 goes steeply uphill and then the elevation turns sharply into a downhill sector, so the drivers will not see the apex of the corner. It will be blind.
“I expect in first practice the drivers will make many mistakes, but they are so good they will learn it quickly because they are the best in the world.
“After Turn 1 there is a ‘snake’ section, which is very fast and orientation will be difficult for the drivers. The track also goes up and down, and there is also one corner which is banked the wrong way [adverse camber]. (more…)
With win No.19 tucked away in Abu Dhabi our very own comeback King looks ahead to another new event in a country he knows and loves.
Q: Firstly, what are your thoughts after taking the win in Abu Dhabi?
KR: We did it! It took us a while, but we did it. All the work by the team came good and we were able to show what we knew all along; we have a car that can compete at the front. And more than that, we can win.
Q: Why do you think the win finally came?
KR: We didn’t give up. We had a period where new developments for the car weren’t working exactly as wanted straight away and when you have to test new parts during practice sessions it’s very difficult to make progress, but we kept pushing. We continued with the exhaust developments we made during practice in Korea and India and the pace was promising all weekend in Abu Dhabi. I was never out of the top ten all weekend and with that in mind I think we had a good idea that we could be competitive if we could just get qualifying right, which has been the big issue all season long. This time though, we got it right.
Q: Is it good that you’ve answered that ‘when’s the win coming’ question?
KR: I’ve never cared really what people think – if I don’t finish the next race, then they’ll think that I’m as bad as that race. I’ll just do my thing, and if I’m happy with what I’m doing and it’s the best it can be for the team, then that’s that. So it doesn’t really bother me if people are thinking differently of me now, than what they did three hours before the race.
Q: How are you looking forward to racing at the Circuit of the Americas?
KR: It will be the third new circuit for me this year and most of all, a brand new place for every team and every driver as well. Korea and India were both new to me, but I had seen the previous races on TV. I don’t know anything about Austin, just the name Circuit of the Americas. I have always liked to go to new places as it adds a bit of additional excitement. I’m particularly looking forward to this one. I like the American atmosphere, it’s just a relaxed environment; they know how to have fun and, most of all, they love racing.
Q: What’s your previous experience of racing in the US?
KR: I competed in seven Grands Prix at Indianapolis. Unfortunately the one time I felt I had a really strong car there was in 2005 when only six cars raced and I wasn’t one of them. I did get pole position in 2003, but none of the races are ones I remember well. Last year I tried NASCAR. I did two races on the Charlotte oval and I really liked it a lot. That was probably the experience I needed to open my eyes for racing again. After that I really wanted to come back to Formula 1, while it was a tempting idea to do more NASCAR, too. After seeing the excitement of the American NASCAR fans I hope Formula 1 gets people as eager to enjoy our racing in Texas, too.
Q: You made some comments about radio messages from the pit wall in Abu Dhabi – can we expect something like this in Austin?
KR: Yes, apparently there were a few of our radio messages broadcast on TV and I think in those moments you could hear how much I just wanted to keep my head down, do my job and win the race. All I needed to know was the gap to the guy behind me. I think you can probably find other messages from me in the car if you search YouTube; even from my short time in NASCAR.
Q: The win came just after you’d been confirmed for 2013; it’s a good endorsement?
KR: It’s a pretty good way to show that everyone’s made the right choice. We’ve shown all season how good we can be, and in Abu Dhabi we showed we can win. There is more to come. I promise.
Kimi Raikkonen claims he has signed a one-year contract with Lotus because it makes his life easier should he want to do something else.
The Finn, who returned to Formula 1 this year after two seasons in the World Rally Championship, recently extended his Lotus deal into 2013.
Although his partnership with Lotus has been successful so far, taking him to third in the current standings, Raikkonen says it does not make sense for him to commit to the long term.
“I’m happy to do year by year and see what happens,” Raikkonen told reporters in Abu Dhabi. “It makes life easier for me, and I see no reason why I should make long-term contracts.
“If you want to go and do something else then it’s less hassle and less problems.”
The 2007 world champion, who has stood on the podium six times this year, did admit he was very happy at Lotus.
“I enjoy the people. They are a very nice group of people,” he said. “They have racing in their hearts and less politics than many others, because it is not a big car manufacturer team, so it makes a difference. I have a good time, no complaints.”
Raikkonen is yet to win a race this season despite having been close to the top step on various occasions.
Although he endured a disappointing Indian Grand Prix last weekend – hindered by a set-up mistake – the Lotus driver is convinced his car had the pace to be fighting at the front.
And the Finn is not yet ruling out getting that elusive victory this year.
“I really thought that we had the speed in the car in the last race, and that is why I was very disappointed with my decision to change the car,” he said. “It probably didn’t work well for qualifying, but in the race, based on laptimes, we had one of the fastest cars.
“But we put ourselves in a position that with our straightline speed we were never going to pass people, so that’s why it was more disappointing.
“But that’s how it goes, but hopefully this weekend we get everything right and don’t make any mistakes in qualifying. I don’t see a reason why we still couldn’t win a race, but of course we need a bit of luck. We’ll see.”
Raikkonen conceded his title hopes are all but over – being 67 points behind with 75 available – but he insists he will continue to push until he is mathematically out of it.
“I guess we still have a chance so we keep pushing, but it’s very unlikely that [his rivals] won’t finish any races. I don’t see it happening. But we are still going to try to do our best and score as many points as we can.”
Video: Kimi speaking to National in Abu Dhabi
He’s just re-signed his contract with the team for 2013, and our Iceman gives us his thoughts on a frustrating race in India, how he will tackle the bright lights of Abu Dhabi, and just how he feels about his successful return to Formula One.
Q: What’s your previous form at Abu Dhabi?
KR: So far I have done only one race in Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. It was my last race with Ferrari and of course my last before I moved to rallying.
Q: You didn’t race for two years after that race – is there any relationship between the two factors?
KR: That was a boring race, I can tell you! I finished the race back in 12th position and there was nothing I could do during the race. I’m looking forward to improving on my record at the track and I’m sure it should be a more interesting race for me this time round!
Q: What do you think of the circuit?
KR: The facilities are second to none at Abu Dhabi. The track layout makes it really challenging for overtaking, while there are not too many places to pass. You really have to qualify well to be on the top, and to get a strong result from there. There are many corners and you need good overall downforce and grip. The car has to ride the kerbs very well, too.
Q: Are there any distinct challenges at the Yas Marina Circuit?
KR: Having an evening race with a mixture of day and night makes a different challenge from circuits that we see anywhere else. We start with the sun and finish with the lights. It’s different, interesting and spectacular too.
Q: Give us a quick overview of your weekend in India…
KR: I had a very good car there, but I just couldn’t do anything with it as I was not able to pass on the straight. It was quite disappointing but that’s how it goes. We put ourselves in that position on Saturday with the set-up we chose for qualifying and we paid the price. We had the speed but not in the right place and when you are behind someone there’s not much you can do. I really thought we had a car which meant we could fight for a podium as our lap times were good, but the mistake we made on Saturday took all the chances out. The Drivers’ Championship battle is pretty much gone for me I think, but hopefully in the next race we can have the speed to be able to take more Championship points.
Q: you optimistic with the E20 for Abu Dhabi and looking forwards?
KR: Hopefully we can be a bit smarter and use our race speed to take some more Championship points. The car is good, and if we manage to qualify higher, then I think we would be in a good position to be able to take the most from the next few races.
Video: Abu Dhabi 2009 Highlights
Q. Kimi, your first time in India. What are your thoughts, your impressions?
KR: Well, I came last night at one o’clock, so I’ve only seen the motorway and the hotel. The hotel, outside it, looks nice. I have no complaints so far. The circuit – I haven’t gone around it. That is tomorrow. I’ll tell you about it.
Q. Are you a fan of Indian food?
KR: Yeah, actually I am, if it’s the same as it is in Europe. I like it, but you know I have no experience yet of the local food.
Q. Kimi, we’re told we can expect an announcement next week or so, is that the case?
KR: I don’t know. I mean, we have options but nothing is decided but I guess it will be decided at some point.
Q. (Shridhar Poddar – Sakal Media House ) Kimi, how has the break from Formula One to rallying helped you, because your second stint has been turning out to be as good as the first one?
KR: It hasn’t really done anything. I was pretty happy to go and do something else for a while, did some racing and I’m enjoying it again. It’s the same places – OK, there are some new circuits and places to come to this year and a new team, but apart from that, Formula One hasn’t changed and it’s exactly the same. For me, nothing’s really changed. People always talk about where I was last time, that I didn’t have the motivation but I thought I drove better than I ever drove in the last year; it was just that we had a pretty bad car at that time. Nothing has really changed for me. (more…)
Kimi Raikkonen believes the current competitiveness of his Lotus team means a 2007-style, last-ditch turnaround to help him win the title is unlikely.
Although the lessons of 2007, when he won the final two races to steal the title from Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso at the last event, mean he is not ruling out a repeat surprise, he is staying realistic about what is achievable.
“Of course we have a chance still, but it is a different life to 2007,” he said in India on Thursday.
“We had a car [in 2007] we knew we could win all the races, and right now we are not the fastest car so we need more help to really win it.
“But we will keep trying and hopefully we can achieve it. We try until there is no chance, but it is a different situation. If we can improve in the next few races then we will see what happens.”
As part of an upgrade push by Lotus, both Raikkonen and team-mate Romain Grosjean will run with the Coanda effect exhausts in India, as well as further front wing aero improvements.
Source: Times of India
Three years away from Formula One, but it seems as if Kimi Raikkonen never left F1. Those crisp one-liners and the brilliance behind the wheel – he has lost none of it.
The ‘Iceman’ is the one of two drivers – the other being Red Bull’s Mark Webber – who hasn’t got a DNF (Did Not Finish) to his name this season. And more importantly, Kimi has quietly crept up to third in the drivers’ standing, and looks quite well entrenched in that spot.
So, has F1 changed in any way during the time he was away? The Lotus driver doesn’t think much has changed.
“I didn’t race for two seasons. Of course, there are some people in different uniforms, but you get that every year anyway! There are some additional buttons on the steering wheel, but that’s it. It was like I was never away,” Kimi told TOI, ahead of next Sunday’s Airtel Indian Grand Prix. (more…)
Having clinched P5 on his first visit to Korea, Kimi now has another new country and track to contend with as we head to India and the Buddh International Circuit.
Q: You gained another solid haul of points last time out; are you satisfied with the result in Korea?
KR: I think fifth was about where we should have been. There were a couple of times where we were in a position to make up some places and – for different reasons – were not able to, but even so we didn’t quite have the speed to match the Red Bulls and Ferraris. I was pretty much on my own at the end of the race but we had to keep pushing to maintain position and it wasn’t so easy. I wouldn’t say it was a fantastic race but at the end of the day we still picked up points for the championship so it wasn’t too bad.
Q: Just four races to go now; what can you hope to achieve before the end of the season?
KR: There’s no point setting targets; we just need to keep working as hard as we can to score strong points and see what happens from there. In terms of the championship, the gap to Sebastian [Vettel] is quite big now so it will be very difficult to catch him, but we’ll keep pushing all the way.
Q: How is your motivation as the goal of the Championship becomes harder to attain?
KR: We have to keep working hard and keep a high level of motivation. Personally I feel my own motivation is very high – like it has always been. I’m keen to get the best results I can. Of course, in 2007 the championship wasn’t decided until the last race so anything is possible. Let’s see what happens.
Q: What have you heard about India as a Formula 1 destination?
KR: India is a brand new place for me. Like with Korea, I’ve never been to the country before which means I’ve never seen the circuit properly. I’m not like other drivers, so I haven’t driven the simulator to learn it, but all in all it’s not that much of a tricky situation. I like to go to different places and the challenge of driving a new circuit is always interesting. So far I’ve learnt tracks after a few laps in FP1 on Fridays. I didn’t have any problems learning the Yeongam circuit that way, and I don’t expect to have any issues here either. As for India, I have never visited the country before… I have certainly enjoyed Indian restaurants in almost every country I’ve been to though!
Q: Any special considerations for the weekend?
KR: We know this circuit is likely to be very dusty at the start of the weekend so that will make things interesting for the first practice sessions. We’ll have some new things on the car and it will be our second time with the new exhaust system so hopefully we can make more gains with our pace. India should also be pretty hot which should suit us. I’m looking forward to it.
After another battling drive to clinch P6 in Japan, Kimi faces the rare challenge of an unknown circuit as the Formula 1 circus rolls on to Korea. Is the Iceman phased ? Not a chance…
Q: What are your thoughts heading to a new track ?
KR: I’ve never been to Korea, but it doesn’t make a difference for me. Since I was very young I have always been able to pick up circuits very quickly. This has not changed.
Q: What do you do to learn a new circuit ?
KR: I drive it. I know some drivers work hard in simulators to learn a new circuit, but they are not for me. I have never played the Playstation or spent too much time in the simulator and it doesn’t seem to have affected my performance in the past. We have three hours practice on Friday and a further one hour before qualifying on Saturday so all the drivers will know the circuit very well.
Q: Are you looking forward to visiting a new country ?
KR: It’s always interesting to race at a new venue and I enjoy going to different places. It gives me a good feeling. It is exciting to be going there for the first time and to start work by walking around the circuit and checking all the corners. I’ve seen a Korean Grand Prix on TV, but we’ll have to wait until the first laps of FP1 on Friday to get to grips with the circuit. Hopefully we will have normal weather there and will not miss any track time on Friday because of rain or technical issues.
Q: What’s your approach for the weekend ?
KR: I will approach Yeongam the same way I approach every race – with the intention of going there to do my very best.
Although the Finn is still gunning for the world championship, Raikkonen is cautious about what he can achieve in Japan this weekend judging by the recent form of his team.
“We have not been even close in the last races, so hopefully we can stronger but I’m not really hoping that we are suddenly going to be fastest,” explained Raikkonen.
“We saw what happened in the last races, but maybe I am wrong. I hope so…”
As AUTOSPORT revealed last week, Lotus is planning to introduce a raft of aerodynamic developments to its E20 for next week’s event in Korea.
Raikkonen hopes that those new parts lift the pace of the car at a time when he needs to start closing the 45-point gap deficit to Fernando Alonso.
“I think we are falling off a little bit from the others, who have improved a bit,” explained Raikkonen. “So we have some small parts, new parts here, and hopefully it will get us back more where we have been before.
“But we have to do the best we can here, and hopefully in Korea we should get some bigger improvements. If they work that should improve things even more.”
Raikkonen will test the Lotus double-DRS in Friday practice at Suzuka, with his team hoping it can get it to work effectively enough to be raced for the first time.
And although Raikkonen’s season-long consistency means he remains in with a shout of winning the title without actually winning a race, he says he does not care about anything other than the championship.
“If we could win it [the title], I don’t care how it comes,” he said. “If we win it, we win it and that is it.
“But at the moment it doesn’t look very good. We have been in a worse situation, but we keep trying. As long as we have a small chance we keep trying and hopefully we can improve our position.”
It is hard to believe Kimi Raikkonen stayed away from Formula One for two years. The ‘Iceman’ is one of the title contenders this season with six podiums already. Now as the F1 gears up for the Asian circuit, the Lotus driver is eagerly looking forward to his first race in India.
Raikkonen, who returned to F1 after a stint in the World Rally Championship, found the track at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) interesting on the simulator.
“It is great to be racing there and the track looks interesting. I always liked to visit new countries and India is an exciting place. As far as performance goes, we won’t know how well the car will perform until we get there,” Raikkonen said ahead of the second Indian Grand Prix (Oct 26-28).
Raikkonen and Frenchman Romain Grosjean are part of a brand new Lotus line-up for the 2012 season. The duo might not have the first-hand experience of the BIC track, but the 32-year-old Finn has heard a lot of good things about it from the team’s reserve Jerome d’ Ambrosio, who drove for Virgin last year.
“Romain, too, hasn’t raced at BIC, but going by what I heard from Jerome it looks like an exciting track. But I would still say, it is better to get out on the track and experience it for yourself,” said Raikkonen as he prepares for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka over the weekend.
It is sheer consistency that has taken him to third place in the drivers’ standings and that, too, without a win.
Asked whether he expected three second places and as many third place finishes in the 14 rounds so far, Raikkonen’s candid response is: “I have always been pretty consistent and even the car is okay.”
His tone is the same when you talk to him about his return to F1.
“F1 hasn’t changed much, it feels like I wasn’t away at all. There were a few familiar faces in different shirts but that’s what happens every year anyway. Though I like many forms of motor sports such as WRC, NASCAR, motocross, snowmobile racing, my focus is on F1.”
Apart from India, South Korea (Oct 12-14) is another new venue for Raikkonen. The 2007 World Champion welcomes the expansion of F1 calendar, calling it good for the sport.
“Korea is another one where I will be driving for the first time. The circuit looks good and it is a new port of call for F1. It is good for the sponsors. I am looking forward to driving on the new track,” he concluded.
After – in his words – a “boring” Singapore Grand Prix, Kimi Räikkönen looks to the rest of the season, telling us how he’s always aiming for the top and why Suzuka suits him so well…
Q: Hot, humid and not exactly straightforward; talk us through your weekend in Singapore.
KR: I think we had the chance to do a bit better as the car felt good on Sunday. Not being able to qualify higher on Saturday hurt our chances, then it was a boring race in the car as it’s very difficult to overtake there. The first safety car was not very good for us, but the second one was better for our strategy. I followed Michael [Schumacher] for most of the race, and it was quite frustrating as our car was faster. It’s not very good when you’re stuck behind people as it degrades your tyres and reduces the grip, but it’s a case of just doing the best you can and then trying to jump others during a pitstop or hoping they make a mistake.
Q: You’re still third in the Drivers’ Championship; can you go higher?
KR: You try to do the best you can. This year has been good for the team and we’re doing well in the Championship so I’m happy with where we are and think that we have a good chance to improve. Of course the objective is always to try to win races and to bring home as many points as possible.
Q: People are asking if you could take the Driver Championship title without winning a race; do you think that’s possible?
KR: I think it’s very difficult to say. There are too many things that could happen over the next few races. I guess if you look at it mathematically then yes, I could, but personally I feel you have to win at least one race to make sure you are World Champion. There would have to be some big dramas if I were to take it from Fernando [Alonso] or Sebastian [Vettel] without winning a race, so all I can do is keep moving forward and trying to win. That’s all I set out to do anyway, every time I step into the car.
Q: Tell us about Suzuka? You famously won there in 2005; is it a circuit you enjoy?
KR: It’s a good circuit, one that’s quite fast and there are some nice opportunities for overtaking. The best tracks for me are ones with long straights and sharp corners with lots of space for racing on, and Suzuka has that. In 2005 I had one of my best wins there after starting the race near the back of the grid and then taking the lead on the last lap. Winning in that way, you never forget the feeling it gives you while crossing the finish line.
Q: How difficult is Suzuka to master?
KR: It is one of the more difficult tracks and part of racing at Suzuka is that there are usually quite a few accidents. When you are on the limit, a driver will always have some big moments during the weekend at a fast circuit and Suzuka really punishes the driver due to the speed of the track and the small run-off areas. It’s a great circuit; very quick and challenging for both car and driver. You need an aerodynamically strong car there, and a solid car to go through those fast, long sweeping corners. I think that suits the E20.
Q: There have been a few difficult races for the team, how tough is the championship battle?
KR: We should get some new parts and setting up the car the way I like it to be depends on the weather and on the circuit. We know the speed is there in our car, we just have to find the right set-up to maximise it every time. We give it our best shot to be on the podium, but the races are going to get more and more difficult with other teams constantly pushing with new development parts. Obviously, we have to make a step forward from Singapore – where we were nowhere – to be fighting for top places. It’s impossible to predict how our car will go in the next races. We have to wait until Friday practice to decide how to approach the race.
Q: How do you cope with the many Japanese fans and screaming girls bearing gifts?
KR: It’s part of being a Formula 1 driver and it shows how enthusiastic the fans are. There are very many fans and they seem to be able to find you wherever you are. They can run fast but I don’t think they will catch me when I’m in the car.
Formula One title chaser Kimi Raikkonen says he is happy at Lotus – for now – even as speculation swirls around possible vacancies at the 2007 world champion’s previous teams Ferrari and McLaren.
The taciturn 32-year-old’s consistent displays in his comeback season after two years in rallying have lifted him to third in the standings with seven races remaining.
Raikkonen arrived in Singapore on Wednesday to pursue his long-shot title challenge on the city-state’s street circuit and try to close the 38 point gap on Ferrari’s championship leader Fernando Alonso.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, winner of two of the last three races, is just one point ahead of the Finn.
With talk of Hamilton mulling a move from McLaren to Mercedes dominating paddock gossip, and Alonso’s under-performing team mate Felipe Massa out of contract at the end of the year, Raikkonen’s future has come into focus.
“I have a good relationship with the team…people are pushing 100 percent and they are real racing people not so much politics, they want to do well in the races and that is a good starting point,” said the tired-looking Finn.
“I enjoy working with the people, very nice and I’m happy here but you never know what happens in the future but right now I’m happy with what’s going on,” he added.
Raikkonen enjoyed five solid years with McLaren from 2002 and twice finished runner up in the championship before he switched to Italian giants Ferrari where he collected his sole title and left at the end of 2009 to go rallying.
Lotus team owner Gerard Lopez said this month that Raikkonen was happy to stay at the former Renault outfit, who were embroiled in one of the sport’s biggest scandals after it emerged they had asked their driver Nelson Piquet junior to crash on purpose in Singapore in 2008 for tactical reasons.
Raikkonen also crashed under the floodlights on the narrow, twisty street circuit that year but did set a race lap record that still holds.
The Finn, with six podium finishes this year, expected a tough race again on Sunday night.
“It is quite hot and humid here and of course a bit different with the evening race than normal, it is a challenging circuit but hopefully we can do well,” he said.
“It’s a street circuit so it always makes it a little bit more tricky when you try to get the best out, if you make a little mistake, there is a big chance to hit the wall, in a normal circuit you have some run off areas.”
Hamilton and Alonso have each won three races this year with Raikkonen yet to triumph since he began his comeback. However the Finn has finished his last 10 races in the points, his best scoring run since Ferrari in 2007/8.
“Winning is the easiest way to achieve the championship, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to win this year but we have been putting ourselves close to there, giving us a chance at least…we haven’t made any big mistakes,” the Finn said.
Lotus will introduce a new rear wing for this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix that should improve its DRS-performance.
As the Enstone-based outfit bids to get back to fighting for the podium, following a disappointing weekend in Italy, the team is confident that the high-downforce nature of Singapore will play better to its car strengths.
As part of a package of improvements it is bringing to the race, the new rear wing should allow it to produce maximum grip in the corners without compromising its straight-line performance when DRS is activated.
Technical director James Allison said: “We have a new floor and a new rear wing. The new rear wing operates at the same downforce level as our Monaco spec rear wing, but with a better DRS delta. This means that this wing has better DRS switching from its maximum drag to its reduced drag settings.
“We believe we’ve been able to produce a rear wing which is at the higher end of the downforce spectrum but still able to allow the lion’s share of the DRS potential which is more difficult to achieve at high downforce levels. It will be interesting to see how it works on track.”
The new wing is a separate development from Lotus’ version of double-DRS, which is due to return to the track at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Team principal Eric Boullier said about the device not being used in Singapore: “It would not suit the track’s characteristics. This system should be back in Japan. That said, we have a few upgrades scheduled for Singapore and they should bring some extra performance.”
On what was one of the team’s most difficult weekends in terms of pace, Kimi Räikkönen’s strong run to fifth place in Monza moved the Flying Finn into third position in the Drivers’ Championship, just one point off second spot. More to come? We asked the man himself…
Q: Are you looking forward to the Singapore Grand Prix?
KR: I really like going to Singapore. It’s a great place to be, I love the local food and I don’t mind the unusual times we run in the car. I have some unfinished business after my two GPs there so far, as I have never scored a point. That doesn’t mean I’m not quick there as I’ve been told I still hold the lap record from 2008. I crashed while fighting for fifth place that year and finished down in tenth in 2009, so I want better this time.
Q: What difference does it make racing at night?
KR: In the first two years of this GP, I was a little bit surprised by how people were talking so much about the different timing. When they switch on the lights, it’s exactly the same as racing in the day time. I think everybody in F1 enjoys the night race in Singapore. It’s worked out really well as it’s a buzzing city and lots of people turn up. Apart from one or two dark spots in the run-off areas the circuit is very well lit, so there is not a big difference to racing in the day.
Q: Regardless of being at night, it’s another street race; what effect does this have?
KR: Monaco was not that good for us, but Valencia was one of the best weekends so far. Obviously, there is no reason why Singapore should be any different compared to Valencia. Like at every street circuit, it’s very difficult to pass other cars there, so starting the race as high as possible on the grid is a very important factor to get a good result.
Q: How do you think the circuit will suit the E20?
KR: Everybody will bring updates to this race so we’ll have to see what difference that makes. It’s a case of trying to get the maximum from our package and working on achieving the best balance. If we get everything right we should do okay.
Q: What’s your target?
KR: Obviously, the podium is a target again. We have had six podiums so far and scored as many points as the top guys in last few races. We have managed to get everything out of our package. Hopefully we are able to carry on in the next races, too.
Q: Any worries about the weather?
KR: Every year they say that it will rain in Singapore when the evening comes. Well, we’ll see when we’re there. It’s no use to worry about it. It will be the same for everybody, anyway.
Q: Monza was a tough race for the team?
KR: We didn’t have enough speed in the car. We were thinking that sixth or seventh would be a realistic finishing position so fifth was probably the maximum we could have achieved. Our speed down the straights wasn’t so good, which made it quite tricky to defend from cars behind. When you look at it like that it’s not a bad result.
Q: You’re up to third in the Drivers’ Championship. How high up the order can you go?
KR: We’ve lost some points to Fernando [Alonso] which is not so good, but we still managed a decent result in Italy and it’s good to be up to third in the Championship. It’s impossible to say how this season will turn out, but we’re very close to second. We’ll see what happens in the next few races.
The 2007 world champion’s team-mate Romain Grosjean was banned for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix after he triggered a huge first corner pile-up at Spa last weekend.
Grosjean is the first driver to receive a ban since Jacques Villeneuve at the 1997 Japanese Grand Prix (although the Canadian raced under appeal), and the first to serve a ban for causing an accident since Mika Hakkinen in 1994.
But Raikkonen believes that even if the authorities start using harsher penalties to get drivers to calm down, there will still be accidents at the start of races.
“Accidents happen, that is part of the sport,” Raikkonen told reporters at Monza ahead of the Italian Grand Prix.
“Sometimes they could be avoided, but it is nothing you can change. Things can go wrong even if you don’t go aggressively or [if you] try to avoid it.”
Raikkonen added that the difficulty of overtaking in Formula 1 means that drivers will always try to make up as many places as possible at the start.
“People try to improve their position at the start because it is the easiest place to overtake people,” he said.
“Unfortunately in the races it is difficult to get past so if you can get a place at the start then it will make your life easier.”
The Finn has a new team-mate in Jerome d’Ambrosio for this weekend, and he is confident that the changes on the other side of the Lotus garage will not have an adverse affect on the team.
“He is our test driver and he has done at least one day [in the car],” said Raikkonen. “He knows how the team works.”
After a storming drive to his sixth podium finish of the year in Spa Francorchamps – despite a car not handling to his liking – Kimi Räikkönen arrives in Monza back in fourth place in the Drivers’ Championship, and wanting more.
Q: From Spa it’s straight to Monza; how do you feel about these back-to-back races? There are rather a lot of back-to-backs in the second half of the year…
KR: Most of all a racing driver wants to race. That is what we do. It’s our passion. That means I feel good going to these back-to-back races, especially when they are to circuits like Spa- Francorchamps and Monza. What is not to like?
Q: In Spa you have achieved your most wins, but in Monza you have none. Time to rectify that?
KR: It’s true that I have never won in Italy. For one reason or another things just did not work out for me. It doesn’t mean I can’t drive the track. Just because I have not won at a circuit in the past it doesn’t mean that I won’t win or get a good result there in the future. Hopefully we will have a real chance to fight for that victory this time.
Q: How do you feel about Monza as a place?
KR: Monza is the real home of the Tifosi and there will be a lot of the Finnish fans, too. It’s the place where we go really, really fast. It’s great to go there with everything working well in the car and seeing how quickly you can go. Last time I raced in Monza I was a Ferrari driver. I have always enjoyed the atmosphere at Monza but it was very special as a Ferrari driver. I hope they will still like to see me racing there even if I could be in front of a Ferrari. I am really looking forward to see all the fans and I think it will be a pretty special feeling if I’m on the podium as a Lotus driver too.
Q: What about the challenges of the circuit?
KR: Monza always gives a great challenge. It’s so unique compared with the more modern circuits as the layout means the car needs to be setup differently. To go fast at Monza you need a good aerodynamic car that is stable over the kerbs with a strong engine, as we are using full throttle for most of the lap. I think we should be pretty good in those areas but we won’t know exactly how good until we get out on track.
Q: Spa was quite a difficult race for you?
KR: My car wasn’t very nice to drive and we did struggle all weekend. We lost Friday’s running due to the weather, but that was the same for everyone. In qualifying we were fighting for the second row and I wasn’t expecting an easy ride in the race, and it turned out to be pretty difficult. Because the car was sliding around more than we wanted we had to put more downforce on it, which meant it was slow in a straight line. It made for some interesting racing with Michael [Schumacher] as he was able to get back past me because he had better top speed. His speed also meant I couldn’t get past him on the straights as I was on the limiter.
Q: You eventually made it stick through Eau Rouge – that was quite some move…
KR: I had to just take a chance to overtake him with the KERS into Eau Rouge. It’s always good to get past another car and Michael never makes it easy. The move paid off – but even then he almost got me still back which shows us that we didn’t really have the speed in the car. I was happy to leave Spa with a third place and it’s good to be back in fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, let’s see what we can do in Monza.