Bahrain: Exclusive interview with Kimi

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He’s already won one race this season, lies second in the drivers’ table and – according to Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso – is currently driving better than anyone else on the grid. But what does Kimi Raikkonen make of the start to his second year with Lotus? We caught up with the straight-talking Finn – eighth on the grid for Sunday’s Bahrain race – to get his take on his 2013 campaign to date…

Q: You seem to be the ‘all-weather’ man this year: whatever the conditions, whatever the tyres, in the end a podium is almost certain. Are you the ideal driver right now?
Kimi Raikkonen:
Ha, I wish I was. Clearly you have to look at the conditions and cope with them – even though our car is not the best right now, we are able to adapt to situations pretty well. And, of course, I am always trying my best to deliver a good result.

Q: It looks like you are almost unaffected by whatever is going on around you. You may not always have the best qualifying – just like today – but most pundits have you on their shortlist of potential winners for the race…
Ah, look back at Malaysia. There I had some issues with the car, so no race is a walk in the park for me as you suggest. (laughs) That’s how it goes. But for sure I always try to maximize the yield of points.

Q: There were high expectations today that you would go out in the last two minutes of qualifying and show everybody the way. But you ended up in P9 – and will start from P8 due to Lewis Hamilton’s gearbox penalty. Was there no more to come?
No, we haven’t got the speed for one lap. Hopefully the race will show a different picture.

Q: Is that what your team principal Eric Boullier calls your finishing qualities?
Could be. One lap is one thing, but to do 57 laps and stay at the top of your game is quite another.

Q: That must make you a much sought-after man. There has been talk that Red Bull could imagine you joining them next year…
I have no contract for next year – that much is true. But further than that, I don’t want to discuss the matter. I want to do well this season and everything else will fall into place.

Q: What would convince you to stay at Lotus? What would make you move on? And do you want to stay in F1 racing in the first place?
I haven’t thought about all that yet – I feel good here. But yes, there are many things that are undecided and there is still a long way to go this season, so let’s see how things unfold. We will see pretty significant changes when teams switch to their 2014 car development – and then it will be interesting to see what is going on.

Q: Would you be a better team mate for Sebastian Vettel than Mark Webber? Could it be that friendship is overrated in this matter?
I don’t know. These are not the things that I think about right now.

Q: Would you like to have a more challenging team mate? Or is there something in being the de facto number-one driver?
Look, sometimes he (Romain Grosjean) has a difficult weekend and sometimes I do. In the end it does not matter for me as I don’t really need somebody who is pushing me. I do my own thing.

Q: You were a surprising third in last year’s championship. Now you are an arguably even more surprising second in the standings. Are you surprised yourself – or is this in line with your personal expectations?
Sure, it’s interesting to beat your own benchmark. The only plan I have in my head regarding that is doing better – as to how much better, let’s see. I am pretty relaxed about all these self-appointed point counters and soothsayers. Just let’s wait and see.

Q: Money makes the world go round and that includes development and development speed. Could that correlation make you nervous this season?
True, we have less money than some of the other teams, but I am not sure if that will really hurt us or not. Last year we were able to do pretty well, so why not this again season?

Q: Malaysia was a bit of a drop in form for you. Why did it happen there and could it be symptomatic of conditions like that – ie higher temperatures compared those in Melbourne and Shanghai?
Nothing to do with conditions. We had some issues with the car, that’s all. Conditions are overrated.

Q: What’s the best part of your car?
I would say that we are more or less okay everywhere. We don’t have really bad points anywhere, but also not really good points. The car works okay.

Q: So let’s try this: what’s the best part of your life right now?
I have a lot good things to do and I don’t complain. My life is okay.

Q: Can you comprehend all the lamenting about the tyres? You seem to be pretty unimpressed…
We cannot change them right now so you better get used to it. Lamenting over things never helps.

Q: Last year here you were on the podium. What is likelihood of a repeat tomorrow?
We are lacking a bit of pace, but in a long race with strategy involved anything can happen. Sure the starting position is not ideal.

Q: Strategy will again play a major role. Will we see daredevils trying to run a two stopper, or will three stops be the way to go?
I think three stops will do it.

Q: So you will be running on three stops?
I don’t know yet…

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