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Raikkonen plays down Melbourne win talk as pecking order remains murky

2012 Formula One Barcelona Test Day Four Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain 4th March 2012 Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus F1 Team.  World Copyright:Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic ref: Digital Image _Q0C7494
Kimi Raikkonen in the cockpit of the Lotus E20

Mar.5 (GMM) Although Kimi Raikkonen ended the 2012 Formula 1 pre-season testing with this year’s fastest lap time around Circuit de Catalunya, in Barcelona, the Finn is not yet predicting a win at the Australian Grand Prix in less than two weeks time.

Kimi Raikkonen in the Barcleona pit garage
Kimi Raikkonen in the Barcleona pit garage

“No one will know how fast any of the cars are until we get to qualifying at Albert Park,” said the returning 2007 world champion.

Lotus – fast at Jerez and also at the Circuit de Catalunya – is expected to trail pacesetters Red Bull and McLaren this season.

Yet in reality, the situation is deliberately clouded: Red Bull had a bad final day of testing on Sunday, but when he was running, rivals expected Sebastian Vettel’s RB8 was brimmed with fuel.

And when he came into the pits, there was the odd sight of team mechanics using large umbrellas to hide the car’s newly-added secrets, including the sidepod exhaust.

“I think that’s a question for Charlie Whiting,” said Ferrari’s technical director Pat Fry when asked about the legality of the solution.

Even so, Red Bull’s position of dominance seems to have been somewhat eroded for 2012, with Mercedes chief Ross Brawn suggesting the RB8 is closely matched by its rivals unless the team has been “running a huge amount of fuel”.

03.03.2012 Barcelona, Spain - Sebastian Vettel (GER), Red Bull Racing and Fernando Alonso (ESP), Scuderia Ferrari - Formula1 World Championship Pre-Season Testing  - Circuit de Catalunya +++ © Copyright:  RACE-PRESS.com
Sebastian Vettel with Fernando Alonso in Barcelona

Sebastian Vettel told DPA news agency: “McLaren are strong. Mercedes are definitely stronger than last year and Lotus and perhaps some other teams should not be forgotten — Sauber, Force India.

“Ferrari seem to be having some difficulties,” added the reigning world champion.

World champion Vettel’s final comment appears to be accurate, with the famous Italian team’s drivers oddly banned from speaking with the media while technical boss Fry confessed that all is not well.

“I’m always pessimistic,” said the Briton, who said a podium for Ferrari in Melbourne is not likely. “I’m disappointed with our performance at the moment.”

Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, ignored his media muzzle and told Spanish television at a football game: “In the first races we will suffer — we are not yet at 100 per cent.

“We’re not in as good shape as (Barcelona players) Messi and Iniesta,” he is quoted by Barca TV.

But for now, it’s all talk, and so the reticent Raikkonen summed it up well: “Like I said, I don’t know, probably no one does,” he is quoted by Germany’s Sport1. “In two weeks, we’ll know.”

Subbed by AJN.