After a fight up the order to second place in Korea, Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen is at the top of his game heading to one of his very favourite circuits, Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix.
Suzuka is up next; what are your thoughts on the circuit?
Normally it doesn’t make too much difference to me where we race – as long as we have a good result then I’ll enjoy it – but Suzuka is a track I look forward to every season. It’s a proper circuit that’s been around for a many years, and you can understand why as it’s a challenge for the drivers and usually makes for some good racing too. It’s fast, technical and there are some good places to overtake, which to me is what racing should be about.
You describe it as a challenge; what is it that really pushes you in the cockpit here?
It’s a bit of everything really. There are some corners where you are flat out – or very nearly flat out – but then there are others where you really have to balance the braking and throttle carefully to maintain the best speed. If you push too hard then you can easily be punished, as I found out in qualifying last year when I was on my best lap in the final session. Hopefully this time we’ll get everything right and be fighting at the front; that’s where you can have the most fun at a circuit like Suzuka.
Would you say this is quite a special venue for you as a driver?
As a racing circuit it has unique characteristics and belongs in the top three in the world with Spa and Monaco. I enjoy winning races the most at the places like these. For me coming to Suzuka was never that enjoyable because of the long journey, but driving a Formula 1 car on the track has felt great every time. I had a good race at Fuji too. It was that wet race back in 2007 when I came from pretty far back to a podium finish, but Suzuka 2005 is my best memory from Japan. It’s very difficult to say which is your best race – especially if you have won many – but coming from the last row of the grid to take victory at a place like this is one I remember very, very well.
What do you like about Japan as a country?
I particularly like Tokyo and always have a good time when I visit there. It’s a fun place, there is a lot going on, and I do enjoy sushi…
What do the Japanese fans mean to you?
Since my first ever visit to Japan back in 2001 with Sauber, I’ve always enjoyed the almost fanatic loyalty of the local fans. They really support you, no matter what position you are racing for. Maybe that Suzuka victory was the best memory for them too. Even last year – after being out of Formula 1 for two seasons – I still had a lot of Japanese fans all over the world. For sure, that feels nice! Whenever I race or go rallying, there are always some Japanese supporters around and I appreciate the support.
It was another strong race result from you in Korea, with some close racing between you and Romain…
It was quite close I guess but we both came out of it okay. He basically gave me second place with a small mistake at the end of the lap after the restart and I already knew there were yellow flags into Turn 3, so I knew if I overtook him into Turn 1 he wouldn’t be able to pass me back. It wasn’t too difficult; he defended pretty hard but I managed to get through.
Was more possible had you qualified better?
Qualifying was pretty awful for me in Korea, but it’s difficult to say whether a better grid position would have made the difference. Sebastian [Vettel] was faster than us at the end; not massively, but a little bit for sure and his tyres were fresher too so I think it would have been tough to catch him in any case. We were closer to the Red Bull in Korea than we have been in some races, but not close enough…
Do you think there’s the potential to add to your win tally before the end of the season?
If we can improve our performance on Saturdays then there’s always a chance, so we’ll keep trying for sure and see what we can do.
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