Mar.24 (Reuters) 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen set the fifth-fastest time in qualifying for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix with team mate Romain Grosjean close behind in seventh, with the team now aiming for a double points finish come Sunday evening at Sepang.
The Lotus has shown plenty of pace in the opening two rounds of the Formula One season and the car matched pole sitter Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren for two rounds of qualifying before it was edged out in the final 10-minute session.
Raikkonen will start the race in 10th after picking up a five-place penalty for changing his gearbox but the fact that he was quicker than world champion Sebastian Vettel (sixth in qualifying) will give him cause for optimism.
“I feel okay. It’s a bit of a shame that we only going to be 10th tomorrow but the car is working well,” the Finn, who was quickest in Q2, told reporters.
“A small mistake in a few corners cost us a few tenths but we had the speed today to do the absolutely perfect lap to be at the front but it didn’t happen.”
Raikkonen is known throughout Formula One as ‘The Iceman’ but he admitted that the sweltering conditions in Malaysia were an issue for the drivers.
“It’s okay to drive but once you stop then you feel the heat,” he said. “Driving is not the problem, the car was working well, no issues with that. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”
Grosjean, who qualified third in Melbourne but failed to finish after tangling with Pastor Maldonado’s Williams, is hoping for better luck in Malaysia from his sixth-place position on the starting grid.
“The team is doing a great job,” said the Frenchman, who qualified seventh but will move up a spot following Raikkonen’s demotion.
“It’s nice to have both cars here and tomorrow is going to be long so I hope to score my first points, we’ll see.
“We don’t know the conditions yet, it may rain at any time. I think we are still getting more information about the car but we are getting there.”
Technical director Alan Permane remains confident the drivers can back up Saturday’s speed with a strong showing in the race.
“We have a good handle on the tyres in these conditions,” the Briton said. “We have good set-ups which both drivers are happy with so, weather permitting, we expect to have both cars in the points.”