Malaysia: Exclusive interview with Kimi

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A race win at round one in Australia and top of the timesheets on Friday in Malaysia – things are looking good for Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus. But as is his way, Raikkonen is playing down his early form at Sepang, only too aware that plenty could change between now and the chequered flag on Sunday…

Q: Kimi, aren’t the conditions reminding you of a Finnish sauna?
Kimi Raikkonen:
That is in fact a completely different story. Yes, it is humid and so probably not the easiest place to be, but the track is nice. And the conditions are the same for everybody – so why worry about it?

Q: Niki Lauda said in Melbourne that you are his kind of driver, as you remind him of the times when drivers were real racers – like in the days of James Hunt and himself. Would that have been your era – the seventies? A time with less media, but intense racing?
Yeah, I am a fan of the old times. Racing was more dangerous so it was a bit more exciting. You paid a huge price when you made a mistake. But as we all know that we cannot bring back the so-called ‘good old times’, I try to pick the best out of the present. And at the moment the present is all well with me! (laughs)

Q: Can you recap that Melbourne race a bit? You started from seventh position, and while everybody was focused on what Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso were doing you sneaked past them and won…
Looking back, that Sunday didn’t start too well. In fact I was pretty disappointed from qualifying. I definitely thought there should have been more for me. But considering where I started last year I told myself: don’t complain and make it better in the race. I felt that I had a good car and it turned out as such.

Q: You dared to run a two-stop strategy. Your former team principal Stefano Domenicali said that he still believes three stops was the right thing to do. You won – so your choice must have been better…
With no real data from the winter tests it is almost impossible to bank on any strategy being right – probably your gut feeling is the best signpost. We followed ours, took some risks and it paid off. I could save the tyres and I could go fast if I needed – I could really drive very easily, almost cruising to the chequered flag. It was one of my easiest wins – if you can ever consider winning an easy task.

Q: So what about here in Malaysia? With you on a high, do the others have any chance? Especially after this afternoon?
Look at this place: it is hot, it is humid and the track is completely different. On top of this we could see rain at any point of the race, so how should I know what is happening on Sunday afternoon? The only thing that I can say right here right now is that the car is good, that the team is working fantastically and that I want to keep the lead in the drivers’ standings. Let’s see where these factors will bring us in the race.

Q: So let’s recap: today it went pretty well for you, despite all the uncertainties you just mentioned, so the indications are that you will be able to defend your position on Sunday…
It is the first time that we really run in hot weather, so we have to set-up the car carefully to make the tyres work to our advantage in a long, demanding race. At the moment I would say that it is trial and error for all of us, and the more you are able to try the more you have the chance to eliminate any errors. It looked good for us this afternoon, but it is Friday so it doesn’t mean much.

Q: It is known that you and Sebastian Vettel have some kind of friendship. When asked how he sees that friendship, his reply was that he respects your honesty and down-to-earth attitude. How could that change, now that you are really racing wheel-to-wheel for victories for the first time?
Seb is for me an honest guy – and, yes, we get along very well. What happens on the track and life outside the cockpit are two completely different pairs of shoes. We are both professionals who can separate one from the other. I always wonder what people are expecting us to do? That we are running with a knife through the paddock seeking revenge after a race incident, or what?

Q: Your contract runs until the end of the year. Now that things are really working out well for you, are you considering staying?
Let’s wait and see. We’ve only done one race so far, so it’s a bit premature to make any decisions for 2014.

Q: What’s your guess for Sunday?
That it will be a tough race and that all the ‘usual suspects’ have won here in the past so we know how to do it! (laughs)

Iceman – His real name

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