Raikkonen quietly confident and braced for season long battle

Kimi Raikkonen during FP2 in Melbourne

Kimi Raikkonen during FP2 in Melbourne

Lotus’s assured performance in Friday practice at the Australian Grand Prix was not quite enough to raise a smile from Kimi Raikkonen, but the former world champion was pleased to be within reach of pace-setters Red Bull.

Raikkonen, third in the championship last year, and his French team mate Romain Grosjean grabbed the fourth and fifth best times behind Red Bull’s sheet-topping Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, with Mercedes’s Nico Rosberg third.

“It all went okay, no problems. The car seems to be behaving very well so far, it’s okay,” the quietly spoken 33-year-old Finn told reporters in the paddock at Albert Park.

“We had more or less one issue in the (winter) testing and when it happened it took half a day almost from that and it’s been fixed I think we are pretty confident that it will not happen any more. Apart from that the car has been running pretty well over the winter. So I don’t really expect to have any problems but you never know.”

Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen during the drivers press conference in Melbourne

After a beautiful autumn day bathed the Albert Park street circuit in sunshine, the weather is forecast to be wet on Saturday, which could turn qualifying into a lottery.

The Finn had performed no wet weather testing in Spain during the off-season, Raikkonen said with a shrug, but added he felt his dramas of a year ago were unlikely to be repeated.

His comeback to Formula One at Albert Park last year, two years after walking away from Ferrari, was nearly scuppered when he lost control on his final flying lap and failed to get through the first phase of qualifying.

The Finn, a winner at Albert Park in his championship year with Ferrari in 2007, regained some pride by finishing seventh after starting on the grid in 17th.

“I think the car should be better (than last year),” he said, wearing wrap-around sunglasses with a mirror reflection. We had some issues in the wet last year, but hopefully those are behind us. For sure we can improve ourselves also quite a bit… It is what it is and the race is a different story and it’s only the first Friday, so we’ll see.”