Raikkonen: It feels like I’ve never been away from F1

By on Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kimi Raikkonen © Lotus F1 Team

All eyes have naturally been on F1 returnee and former World Champion Kimi Raikkonen this weekend, as he made his first race appearance since the 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with Ferrari. It was a weekend of ups and downs as Raikkonen suffered with steering issues throughout the early stages of the weekend.

After a disastrous qualifying session, Raikkonen was stranded down in 18th position, whereas his younger team-mate was reaping the rewards after qualifying a stunning 3rd on the grid behind the two McLarens.

However, during the race the fortunes of the two drivers was reversed as Grosjean went out on lap 1 after a collision with Pastor Maldonado, whereas Raikkonen surged through the field in a race long battle with the Saubers to finish an impressive 7th.

“I made a good start but then there was an accident in front of me at the first turn, so we lost a few places there as I had to almost stop and move onto the grass to avoid it,” explained Raikkonen, after gaining 10 places during the race. “That made the race harder again as we had the speed, but a lot of traffic to get through. When you look at all these things we could have finished in a much better position. We had the safety car which I think actually hurt us a bit as well. Overall the weekend was far from ideal, but the car feels good and to come back to 7th means we at least come away with some points.”

As the F1 circus moves on to Malaysia for round two of the championship, Lotus will be hoping to get both drivers to the finish during the race. The Finn who achieved his first ever victory at the circuit with McLaren in 2003, will have fond memories of racing there.

Q&A with Kimi Raikkonen ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix

How did it feel coming back to Formula 1 after two years away? Did you find it easy getting into the groove with a new car, new tyres and the DRS?
To be honest it didn’t feel any different to when I last raced. There have been a few rule changes but the racing itself is very similar. The DRS is easier to use in the race than in practice or qualifying because there are only certain places you can activate it, whereas in the other sessions people will try to push the limits of how early they can use it which can easily lead to a mistake if you are too aggressive.

Given your performance and where Romain managed to qualify in Australia, how much potential do you feel the E20 has?
The car feels very good. In the race I was stuck in traffic a lot so it didn’t show so much, and who knows what might have happened if we had a better grid a slot. There is a lot of speed in the car.

You came on the radio shouting about the blue flags…
I was just wondering what was going on as they kept showing it to me! I assumed it was for the car behind that I’d just overtaken but it seemed to go on for a few laps so I wanted to know why they were still waving at me!

With round 1 now done and dusted, what are your thoughts moving on to Malaysia?
I’m happy to get the first race out of the way. We’ll be trying to improve our performance in Malaysia for sure. We don’t know how the car will behave there but it’s been good everywhere so far so hopefully it’ll be the same there. It’ll be hot and humid which is a challenge but we have a good car. As long as qualifying goes well we could be fighting for podiums. We’ll have to wait and see.

Sepang as a circuit is quite different from Albert Park as a track?
You still need a good car and that looks to be what we have. Hopefully we’ll have a smoother weekend than we did in Australia with no mistakes. We won’t know how the car will perform until we get out on track, but it’s been good everywhere else so far. Hopefully it’ll be the same in Malaysia.

What are your main memories of Sepang as a circuit?
Malaysia has been good and bad for me in the past; I’ve had a few bad races there but I’ve also won three times at the circuit including my first Grand Prix victory so it’s nice to go back to where it all began. It’s hot and humid which makes it a challenge for the drivers, but it’s the same for everyone.

With two long straights forming part of the circuit layout, is this a track which will lend itself to overtaking with the DRS and KERS systems?
I haven’t used the DRS here before so I’m not sure how much use it will be, but our car is good in a straight line so hopefully it can help us out in the race. We’ll have to wait and see.

Do you feel like you’re getting the most out of the E20 at this stage?
There’s much more to come. We’re learning about the car all the time and the last race didn’t really give us the chance to use its full potential. Hopefully Malaysia will be a bit more straightforward.

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