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: