After two days of private testing with a 2010-spec Renault R30 at Valencia, Lotus is convinced that Kimi Raikkonen will be ready for the start of the official pre-season testing in Jerez on February 7. The Finn was back behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car on Monday for the first time since he last drove for Ferrari in 2009.
Despite completing a total of 666 km over two days, or the equivalent of more than two Grands Prix race distances, Raikkonen did not show any signs of physical fatigue during the test in Valencia.
Speaking to Autosport magazine after the test, Lotus track operations director Alan Permane said, “F1 cars are reasonably intense to drive and although he’s a ﬁt guy, I suspect his neck muscles won’t have been used in a rally car to the extent they are in an F1 car. But he did 50 laps on the ﬁrst morning and didn’t have to stop for any ﬁtness breaks or anything like that."
Raikkonen also confirmed to BBC Sport that he did not suffer any neck pain after the test, saying: "I don't feel in the neck any stiffness. I probably expected to have more problems in the neck but I didn't really have any."
Despite being away from Formula 1 for two years competing in the World Rally Championship, Raikkonen's performance during the Valencia tests left Permane feeling confident that Raikkonen will be 100 per cent ready in time for the start of the pre-season testing in Jerez.
“I’ll give you an example: he was running around with a lowish fuel load in the car and we put an awful lot more fuel in. We calculated what the difference should have been and his ﬁrst lap was absolutely on it – to the tenth. That was impressive. I wouldn’t have known that he hadn’t been driving last season," said Permane.
Although Raikkonen has a reputation of being taciturn and uncommunicative toward the media, Permane challenges that image of the Finn by saying, “It’s clear he has a reputation that he’s a guy who doesn’t talk at all and gives one-word answers but I’ve not seen any of that. He must have two faces - one for [the media].
"He's perfectly normal. He was very happy to sit and talk about the car for as long as it takes. He’s very articulate, knowledgeable and to the point in what he wants from the car."
Raikkonen's biggest challenge which lies ahead of him will be getting accustomed to the 2012 Pirelli tyres.
Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery however, is confident in the Finn's ability to adapt to the tyres quickly, saying in a interview to Finnish newpaper Turun Sanomat, "I have seen Kimi's comments both before and after the test in Valencia, that he must learn the tyres. That is a big difference when compared to the other drivers from his point of view. Kimi is one of the most extraordinary drivers we have seen in this sport so I believe he will learn everything quickly."
"Kimi is so sensitive to the car that he quickly understands how tyres works, how they wear and how he needs to take care of them. Of course, the team will advise him too now that Kimi needs to pay attention to different aspects which he got accustomed to when he was previously driving in F1," Hembery also added.