Apr.5 (Lotus) Kimi Raikkonen’s return to Formula 1 has been impressive to say the least, the likes of Niki Lauda and Emerson Fittipladi have hailed the champion’s return, both admiring the remarkable ease with which the Iceman has plugged back into the sport at the highest level. Before the season resumes in China next weekend, the 2007 F1 world champion reflects on the first two race and looks ahead to Shanghai where he won in 2007.
Two races in – how does it feel to be back? Kimi Raikkonen: Two races done, eighteen to go. So far it has been more or less alright for me and the racing isn’t any different than before. The E20 certainly feels good. We’re working to get the steering exactly right for me – and we’re almost there. The speed in the car is good – and this applies to qualifying and race pace. It’s been two frustrating races in terms of where we started. We shouldn’t have started so far back in Australia, and the penalty for changing the gearbox before the Malaysian Grand Prix cost us finishing positions too, but that’s motor racing.
The E20 certainly seems to have good pace… KR: We can say it looks good so far. The car was very good in qualifying at both races. Romain was third in Australia then I was fifth fastest in Malaysia. At Sepang it could have been better. I made a couple of mistakes in the final run in Q3. I lost some time there, so it could have been better than fifth, fourth or even third. I felt the speed was there in the car. Obviously, it was a good car to qualify.
Race pace doesn’t seem bad either; you’re back to setting race fastest laps… KR: The race was difficult with the conditions and honestly the best approach was to fight to keep the P5 position. When I first went out on the slicks it was so dark that it was difficult to see the dry line on the circuit. Once I could make out the line I drove fast enough to keep the position. I felt that there was more pace possible from the car but I didn’t want to take any risks. To set the race’s fastest lap is nice, but not as good as winning.
How was the feeling with the Pirelli wet tyres? KR: It was my debut with the latest wet weather tyres. When the lights went out, I had to take it easy, because I simply didn‘t know how they would behave. Obviously we had done only one installation lap with them beforehand, so we didn‘t even know how to adjust the front wing for the wet race. But the start went okay, we actually managed to gain a few places, but then there was an incident with a couple of cars in front of me, so I had to go on the grass again like in Australia to avoid them. I lost some places, but I made it through the first lap, anyway.
What are your thoughts of the Shanghai International Circuit? KR: It’s just another race track – I don’t have particular favourites or anything like that. It’s quite similar to Albert Park and Sepang in what it requires from the car so that should be good for us. We have some new parts for the E20 so that should also be good. I’m sure all the other teams have new parts for their cars too, so we won’t know where we are until we get there.
You’ve gone pretty well in China before, you must have a good feeling going there? KR: I won there in 2007 and that was a good feeling as that was the year I won the World Championship. It’s a proper race track and there are good opportunities for overtaking. Our car looks good so let’s see what happens when we get out on track.
Are you happy with the development progress of the E20 and the evolving relationship with the team? KR: The team is working very hard to keep us going to the right direction. Obviously, we have a good and solid car to work with. It has been quick everywhere so far. The weather and other situations at the two races we’ve had mean we haven’t seen the best of it. I feel comfortable with my relationship with the team. It’s clear they are racers like me and that is the best way to get the maximum from the season.