Raikkonen: I expect to fight in the middle group

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus F1 Team. Kimi Raikkonen Tests a Lotus F1 Team Car, Valencia, Spain, Tuesday 24 January 2012.

Kimi Raikkonen returns to F1 with no great expectations

Jan.27 (GMM) Kimi Raikkonen has revealed that he is prepared to race in the midfield this season as he returns to Formula 1 with Lotus.

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus F1 Team car. Kimi Raikkonen Tests a Lotus F1 Team Car, Valencia, Spain, Tuesday 24 January 2012.

Kimi testing the 2010 Renault at Valencia

The Finn, a winner of 18 grands prix with top teams McLaren and Ferrari, has spent the last two years in world rallying.

For the first time since he stepped out of his Ferrari at the 2009 season finale, 32-year-old Raikkonen returned to the wheel of a F1 car this week at Valencia.

“I was expecting it to feel faster than it was,” he admitted to the BBC.

“Ok, Valencia is not the fastest circuit, but it was still pretty normal.”

Raikkonen is also braced for an average season, admitting in Zurich to Italy’s Autosprint magazine that he is unlikely to be a frontrunner in 2012.

“I expect to have to fight in the middle group,” he said. “But it will not be a drama. It’s no different to my last year at Ferrari.”

It is believed Raikkonen was ousted by Ferrari two years ago because the team’s lucrative new sponsor Santander was willing to pay handsomely for Fernando Alonso.

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F60  Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday 1 November 2009.

Kimi during his last race for Ferrari in 2009 at Yas Marina

Typically, ‘Iceman’ Raikkonen has no regrets, “I have no resentment towards anyone.”

But he has had to pay out of his own pocket for his recent rallying and Nascar forays, and is having to once again plot a course to the front of the F1 grid.

“Of course the championship is the goal,” Turun Sanomat newspaper quotes him as saying. “It’s fine to try it, but I am not obsessed about having another championship or not.”

Raikkonen said his Lotus deal is “basically for two years”.

“I don’t have any long term plans. Let’s see how it goes with Lotus.”

His next outings will be at the wheel of the new car at Jerez.

“Generally, if the car feels good right from the start, you are usually competitive (for the season),” said Raikkonen.

“The races I don’t think are so different (from 2009),” he added. “Vettel was strong even then even though there is much more passing now, but that depends on the moving wing.

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus F1 Team. Kimi Raikkonen Tests a Lotus F1 Team Car, Valencia, Spain, Tuesday 24 January 2012.

Kimi with Lotus engineer during the test in Spain

“I haven’t tried it (DRS) yet, or the KERS because it was the 2010 car (at Valencia). But it’s just one or two more buttons to push.”

As for his fitness after two years out, Raikkonen said he felt good after almost 700 kilometres at Valencia.

“I don’t feel in the neck any stiffness,” he said. “I probably expected to have more problems in the neck but I didn’t really have any.”

“We try to do as well as we can of course in every race, but it’s very difficult to say. We have to see how the [new] car is in the testing and go from there.”

“Hopefully we can have a good car to challenge in front and that would be nice, but if not we try to improve it and go to the front.

“The team has everything we need to produce a good car. We are not missing something that’s the reason we don’t have a good car.

“The people are very keen to have a good year. The atmosphere is great, it is a bit more family like than in other big teams, very nice people to work with and I’ve been enjoying it so far.”

Raikkonen said the main reason for his return to F1 was that he was missing wheel-to-wheel competition.

“Racing is the biggest thing, that’s why I’ve probably come back,” he said. “That’s really the main thing.”