Kimi Raikkonen says that topping the first day of pre-season testing means less to him than the ‘positive’ first sensations he received from the new Lotus E20 and Pirelli’s soft and medium tyre compounds that he tried for the first time at Jerez.
The 2007 world champion played down his headline-grabbing fastest time at the Spanish circuit after ending up 0.1s faster than Paul di Resta’s Force India, having completed 73 laps on a relatively trouble-free day.
“It makes no difference,” he said when asked how it felt to be quickest on his return to contemporary F1 action. “I mean it’s the first day, and it would make a difference if it were a race weekend, but here it means nothing.”
But the Finn said that the information he gained using 2012-spec equipment and proper race tyres – as opposed to the demo rubber he had used prior to Tuesday’s official running – was hugely valuable as he continued to reacclimatise to the sport.
“The feeling is pretty OK with the car and for sure I’ve had much worse first days and worse feelings with new cars,” he added. “I was quite happy with it.”
“The feeling was pretty good with the car. The first feeling is handling quite nicely so… just going with that feeling I’m quite happy, but there are areas that we can improve and that we have to improve. I’m positive about it.”
Raikkonen completed 60 laps before the team broke for lunch, and during that morning he completed four stints culminating in a 1m19.670s lap – faster than Rubens Barrichello’s best overall time of 2011.
And while Lotus’s afternoon was interrupted by the need to change a KERS battery, Raikkonen said he was pleased with the ground he had covered on the first day.
“I did exactly what the team were planning, or not exactly because we missed a few laps when we had a small issue,” he said. “We tried different things, we did a few checks.
“But we did also quite a lot of the normal things you have to do on a first day yesterday, so that was a help to get rid of those. But it was a pretty normal first day.”
Raikkonen added that he had been pleased with how the tyres had felt: “They are what they are and you try to get the best out of them.
“When they are new they seem to be pretty nice tyres. Of course they probably go away more than in the past, but it’s the same for everybody and in a long run you try to save them as much as you can and get the best out of it.”
Kimi Raikkonen got his 2012 Formula 1 comeback off to a perfect start by topping the opening day of pre-season testing at Jerez.
The 2007 world champion went fastest straight out the blocks and was never displaced, as four fast stints in the morning allowed him to get down to 1m19.670s – faster than any testing laps at the Spanish track throughout 2011.
It was also faster than anyone else would manage all day, particularly with the afternoon proving slower than the morning.
Force India’s Paul di Resta came closest to displacing Raikkonen at the top of the timesheets, missing out by just over a tenth of a second. A successful day was boosted by the fact that the British driver was able to complete over 100 laps.
Nico Rosberg, in charge of the 2011-spec Mercedes W02 in the morning, finished third fastest, narrowly ahead of Mark Webber in the new Red Bull RB8.
After a delayed start – the result of fog preventing rear wing components from arriving on time – the Australian was able to get within a second of Raikkonen in the afternoon.
Immediately after setting his best time Webber also blitzed the sector one speed trap, topping 300km/h for the first time – suggesting both he and the car have time in hand.
Daniel Ricciardo ended the day in fifth for Toro Rosso, although his session was cut short by a loss of oil pressure that brought about the first of the day’s two red flags.
The second came with less than an hour of the session to run when Kamui Kobayashi pulled over on the back straight, having run out of fuel in his Sauber.
Unlike Ricciardo, the Japanese driver was able to rejoin shortly after, but could not improve his time and ended the day in seventh, behind Michael Schumacher – who replaced Rosberg at Mercedes for the afternoon.
Jenson Button and Felipe Massa ended the day eighth and ninth respectively for McLaren and Ferrari – Button 1.8s down on Raikkonen and Massa more than 3s off, having run with a periscope gauge attached to his roll bar for the entire day.
After a promising start, Heikki Kovalainen’s day was cut short when his Caterham’s starter shaft broke, and he finished the day in 10th. Only Williams driver Pastor Maldonado completed fewer laps – 25 to Kovalainen’s 28 – but the Venezuelan was nevertheless able to secure 11th ahead of Pedro de la Rosa’s 2011-spec HRT.
Pos--Driver--------------Team------------------Time----------------Laps 1. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m19.670s 73 2. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m19.772s + 0.102 101 3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m20.219s + 0.549 56 4. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m20.496s + 0.826 53 5. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m20.694s + 1.024 57 6. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m20.794s + 1.124 41 7. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m21.353s + 1.683 106 8. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m21.530s + 1.860 60 9. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m22.815s + 3.145 69 10. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m23.178s + 3.508 28 11. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m23.371s + 3.701 25 11. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m23.676s + 4.006 44
Seven-time champion Schumacher last raced against Raikkonen in 2006, before the German retired from the sport.
Raikkonen, who finished second to Schumacher in the 2003 season, is back in F1 this year after a two-year hiatus, racing for the Lotus team.
“I’m happy for him, very happy for him,” said Schumacher at the end of the day at Jerez.
“It is the first day and let’s see at the end of the three days (Sic) and then we can make a proper judgement of what those times were worth. But I am really happy for the team and for him.”
He added: “It’s great to have so many world champions on the grid. It is going to be a good show for all of us.”
Kimi Raikkonen posted the quickest time in the first morning of testing in 2012 as the returning 2007 world champion set the pace in the new Lotus E20.
The Finn responded to the hype surrounding his return with four fast stints, and occupied the top spot on the timesheets from the minute he first left the garage.
His fastest time so far, a 1m19.670s, set on his third run using medium Pirelli tyres, was faster than any testing laps at the Spanish track throughout 2011.
Lotus confirmed that the team’s programme was simply to put miles on the new car and to give Raikkonen as much time as was possible to get used to this year’s Pirelli compounds. By 13:00 local time, the Finn had completed 50 laps.
Paul di Resta was second fastest in the new Force India, having spent much of the morning doing intensive evaluation of the VJM05 which sported a large pylon mounted on the roll-bar.
Nico Rosberg was third fastest, driving a 2011 Mercedes W02 with some modifications. Having initially worked on calibration and installation, the German quickly upped the ante and by lunchtime had worked down to a 1m20.219s lap on Pirelli’s soft rubber.
Daniel Ricciardo was fourth fastest in the Scuderia Toro Rosso having completed a trouble-free 40 laps so far in the STR7, which was revealed to the world at Jerez on Monday evening.
Mark Webber completed just eight laps in the new Red Bull RB8 but finished as fifth quickest.
Kamui Kobayashi was sixth fastest in the Sauber C31. The Japanese driver’s only problem was the loss of a small piece of the rear brake duct on his initial run, but the team quickly resolved the issue.
Jenson Button was seventh for McLaren, which took its time working through systems checks and installation runs. Meanwhile, Felipe Massa was eighth quickest for Ferrari. The Brazilian focussed on data gathering in the F2012 – which was also carrying a tall pillar on its roll-hoop.
Heikki Kovalainen completed 18 laps by lunchtime for Caterham – the Finn having achieved a best of 1m23.1748, ahead of Pastor Maldonado in the new Williams-Renault. The FW34 was also revealed to the world in a roll-out just before the start of the test this morning.
Pedro de la Rosa completed the order in last year’s HRT.
Pos--Driver--------------Team------------------Time--------Laps 1. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m19.670s 50 2. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m19.772s 52 3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m20.219s 56 4. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m20.694s 40 5. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m21.474s 8 6. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m21.534s 29 7. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m22.402s 22 8. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m23.056s 51 9. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m23.178s 32 10. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m23.371s 23 11. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m24.322s 16 All Timing Unofficial
Q: The team were full of praise for the way Kimi went about the running in Valencia. Have you been equally impressed with him this morning? What has his feedback been on the E20?
JA: You can tell Kimi is a class act. He gets in the car and is on the pace straight away; there’s no building up to it. His commitment is instant and the lap times show that. His fitness level is also good which has allowed him to be consistent, and he hasn’t had any major ‘moments’ out on track; he seems to have everything very much under control.
So far his feedback on the car has been good. Kimi has been complimentary about the balance of the car, the braking and other features. The steering is slightly heavy for his liking at the moment, but other than that he’s been comfortable.