Kimi Raikkonen came to Barcelona in the afternoon and had a long meeting about the test schedule with his race engineer Mark Slade, who started in the team at the beginning of March. Slade worked with Räikkönen last time in McLaren in 2006. Finnish driver is in the next Wednesday in popular British Top Gear tv show and tries to break Sebastian Vettel’s top time at airport of Dunsfieldin. BBC broadcasts the program a week later on Sunday. Grosjean has a Japanese race engineer Ayao Komatsu, and he joked that radio traffic certainly sounds amusing when a French and a Japanese are having a conversation. “We’ll try to give Kimi and his engineers all the feedback what we can. Kimi will be trying different things, so that we can get the car into top shape in Melbourne”, Grosjean explained.
Turun Sanomat 2.3.2012 23:24:32
KIMI Raikkonen expects to pick up right where he left off when he returns to Formula One, despite two seasons away from the sport.
The Finnish driver won the 2007 championship title when driving for Ferrari but quit in 2009 and switched to rally. He will return to F1 this year with the Lotus Renault team at the Melbourne Grand Prix and will be one of six former champions competing in the second race of the season. Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton will also hit the track on March 18. “I can’t deny the fact that my hunger for F1 has recently become overwhelming,” Raikkonen said. “It was an easy choice to return with Lotus Renault GP as I have been impressed by the scope of the team’s ambition. “Now I’m looking forward to playing an important role in pushing the team to the very front of the grid.” Raikkonen won the Melbourne GP in 2007.
Kimi Raikkonen has vowed that Lotus will not get despondent if they don’t make a positive start to the season.
The Enstone squad made a big impact at the beginning of the 2011 campaign when they claimed two podium finishes, but they went through a major slump mid-season and eventually finished a distant fifth in the Constructors’ Championship. A lot is expected from Lotus this season after they recruited former World Champion Raikkonen as one of their drivers, and made a positive start to the Jerez test. However, their pre-season plans took a big blow at the second test in Barcelona last week when they were forced to pull out on day one after they discovered a problem with their chassis.
Raikkonen, though, says the team won’t get discourage if they things don’t go according to plan early in the season. “The last year I was with Ferrari we weren’t always at the front,” he told F1 Racing in an interview. “But they [Lotus] started well last year. We hope the new car will be strong but the rules are slightly different and you never know. “But let’s say we’re eighth or something; we won’t say ‘Oh fuck we’ll give up’. We’ll always try to improve and hopefully we’ll be as high up as we can be.”
Lotus will bring the very best out of Kimi Raikkonen, reckon team bosses Eric Boullier and Gerard Lopez, who believe the 2007 world champion is a much more dedicated team player than his past reputation suggested.
Raikkonen has impressed Lotus since joining the team for his Formula 1 comeback after two years in rallying, and was quickest on the first day of winter testing at Jerez last week. Lopez said Lotus had found Raikkonen to be a totally different character to how he was presented during his last F1 stint. “For most people it’s probably one of the big mysteries, because you hear the hearsay and so forth, but we feel very good with him and he clearly feels at home,” Lopez told AUTOSPORT. “He smiles a lot when he’s with us! But most importantly that says he feels more like part of the family.” Lopez added: “I think Kimi has a public image that honestly from what we’ve seen does not translate into how he really is. He’s a very hard worker, very good at providing feedback, and has a good team spirit. “Once we talked to him, once we understood why he was coming back, we really felt comfortable. If you look at what happened [at the test], nobody can say that he’s not on the pace.”
Boullier reckons the way Lotus works is proving ideal for Raikkonen. “We tried to handle his personality and make sure that we don’t bother him too much with too many intrusions, and he’s a real racer,” said Boullier. “This team is full of proper racing people and he has fitted very well because we speak the same language. “We are flexible, but our system is very racing-orientated, and that suits him very well.”
Kimi Raikkonen says he has fewer concerns about adapting to 2012-spec Formula 1 after two years away from the sport following his two-day test at Valencia a couple of weeks ago.
The 2007 world champion, speaking at the launch of the new Lotus E20 at Jerez, said that while Pirelli’s tyres were always going to provide his steepest learning curve, he felt that his run on the demo rubber in a two-year-old Renault had displaced any worries about getting up to speed quickly. “The tyres are probably the biggest difference since I left, and that’s what people were saying,” said Raikkonen. “But since the test two weeks ago I have less worries about the whole thing than I had before. So we will see where we are when the first race comes. For me it was nice to get back in the car again. It is very difficult to say how well we went, but I got back all the feeling about driving the car and got used to working with the team. That was really the main goal, to learn. It was interesting to drive and get a little bit back that feeling.”
Raikkonen, who shook the Renault-powered E20 down during a team filming day at Jerez on Monday, said that in the short period of time that he had been working with Lotus he had been convinced that all the ingredients were in place for the squad to return to a championship-winning level. “Nobody knows exactly [how long it will take],” he said. “The team has a lot of hunger to do well and to get back their winning ways but it’s not easy. If it was, everybody would do it. But definitely there are people who want to get back there and put in the effort for it. They have won it before so they have all the tools to do it. It’s just about getting everything right and being up there all the time so hopefully it can happen soon, but everybody seems hungry to do it.”
Raikkonen said that he was not expecting many changes on his return and that many of the faces in the paddock were similar to those he had left behind when he walked away from the sport at the end of 2009. Responding to a question that suggested he was no longer enjoying the sport when he left, Raikkonen replied: “That was only your opinion, I would have left earlier if I wasn’t having fun. “I always said that I loved the racing and I have always been very happy to race. There were a lot of stories from all of your [the press] side about my motivation, but I never had any issues with that. This has come from nothing from my mind. I don’t think I look at Formula 1 any differently,” he said. “It’s a new year and there are some different things from in the last few years, but I know the sport, I know how things work here. The racing is going to be a little different but all the other things are more or less the same. OK from team-to-team it changes in things outside of the racing but I feel sure it is going to be similar experience.”
Lotus has been impressed by the speed at which Kimi Raikkonen has adapted to his new car after just two full days of testing in Jerez.
Raikkonen is returning to the sport this season after two years in rallying and had his first real taste of his new car last week at Jerez. Raikkonen set the fastest time on the first day of the test and trackside operations director Alan Permane said his whole approach had been hugely impressive. “There’s an awful lot more to Formula One than just putting one lap together and that’s what makes a champion,” he told ESPNF1. “That’s the sort of thing you can see in Kimi and see how good he is; how he uses the car over a long run and how he looks after the tyres. He’s never driven these tyres before and already after a couple of days you can see that he’s understanding them and altering his driving to look after them – he’s got a lot of feel in the car.”
Asked if Raikkonen has the potential to be the leader the team was looking for last year, Permane said: “Being a world champion, we can’t get a lot better than that. It’s a difficult one, the question of a leader and do we need a leader. I think a driver will become a leader if he delivers and we can deliver to him. Then he can tell us what he wants, we give that to him and then he delivers again, so we build up a trust in each other. I think that’s how a driver becomes a leader. “I think so far everything seems to be working well. Of course there will be ups and downs, we’ve had a golden week far beyond our own expectations. That, of course, can’t carry on. It would be lovely if it could, but there will be ups and downs and that will test us and that’s when you see how strong people’s characters are.”
Permane added that Raikkonen has been very specific about the requests he has made of the team, but has paid them back with “excellent” feedback. “He’s very easy to work with, very, very easy indeed – no complaints at all,” Permane said. “His feedback is excellent, he spends an awful lot of time with his engineers looking at stuff, going through data and telling us what he wants. From what I can see, he’s happy firstly with the car we’ve given him, but also the other stuff – the bits that he asked for when he came, the type of steering wheel he wanted, the seat, the seat belts, things like that. We’ve also delivered the braking stuff he wanted, he’s got all that. I think he’s a pretty happy guy.”
Seiska’s reporter Panu Hörkkö visited Kimi Räikkönen at his home and he was surprised – positively.
When I drove on Feb 3rd from Helsinki to Kimi Räikkönen’s villa in Porkkala I had butterflies in my stomach. I had actually had them ever since the night before and Kimi even visited in my few hours dream to be honest. So the unconsciousness pulled cruel tricks on me. I was however about to meet Kimi for the first time and I had heard that he hates reporters. I wondered which one of us is more troubled with the meeting – the one who was going to be interviewed or the interviewer?
Kimi’s expression was something completely different from what I had expected!
When the photographer and I arrived to Porkkala we were greeted by Riku Kuvaja. He informed in his kind way that he would go and walk around the villa with the photographer and I could soon interview Kimi in peace. Soon after that the glass door opened and a beanie-headed Kimi came out to shake hands with me. I immediately saw an expression on Kimi’s face that I hadn’t seen in one single magazine or TV-interview earlier. Kimi was unbelievably laidback and frankly put charming, if a man can say so about another man. Kimi’s boyishness and grinning continued all through our 3-hours meeting and the ice broke easily in the Iceman’s cave. Kimi answered my questions in a laidback way and used his witty sense of humour. His laughter was catching and the atmosphere was warm. As an example I could mention my question “How tough steam-man are you?” Kimi replied in his personal way: “I like to go to a sauna but just the normal steams. No Sauna-Timo-business for sure,” Kimi said. It wasn’t pretending from his side, I can say based upon my life experience that Kimi is genuinely a laidback person – and modest too on top of that – unlike many “heroes” I have met.
Lacking speaking skills, they say!
After we left the villa I could only think that dammit, that guy just hates cameras just like probably 99% of Finnish men also hate! Next F1-season I am going to concentrate on following only Kimi and his grips in Lotus. The guy did after all set the fastest laptime in Jerez testing! I will leave in their own league those who nag about Kimi’s poor skills of commenting or posing. Afterall I know myself that we Finns have an exceptionally charming hero in this man. And a man can say this about another man. Good luck to the upcoming season, Kimi!
After two days back in the cockpit, two things are clear – Formula One has missed Kimi Raikkonen and Kimi Raikkonen has missed Formula One. Yes, the niggles which drove him to rallying two years ago are still there, but – for now – the 2012-spec ‘Iceman’ seems suitably chilled. Another thing that hasn’t changed is his pace, which he proved in style on the opening day of this week’s Jerez test by setting the fastest time for Lotus. Raikkonen discusses progress…
Q: You clocked the best time on day one at Jerez. Was it because of a magic car or a magic Kimi?
Kimi Raikkonen: Ha, I don’t really know. On the first day the car was good, but I have to say that on the second day it was even better. If it only set the fifth-best time then it was down to the fact that we tried different things. But, for sure, coming back to the real Formula One world and immediately doing the best time on the first day of testing was not bad. It was a nice warm feeling for the ego. But, of course, to really classify what the time was worth you would need to know what program everybody else was running on. And don’t we all know that the times only really matter when we are in a real race? So, yes, it was nice, but don’t overestimate things! (laughs)
Q: So you feel comfortable in the car…
KR: Well, there are moments when the handling is easier than at other moments, but overall I am pretty happy with the car. Sure, there is always room for improvement, but I would say that it was not a bad start for Lotus and myself. At the moment the magic word is mileage – for all three of us: the team, the tyres and me.
Q: You did 117 laps on the second day. Did you start to feel it? Nothing compares to the G-forces when you drive a Formula One car…
KR: No, there were no problems whatsoever. That is why you exercise before.
Q: Topping the timesheets must have reassured you that after two years away you hadn’t lost it?
KR: To be honest it never entered my mind that I could have lost it. I knew when I drove the old car in Valencia that I would be okay. I could feel it immediately. Of course there isn’t 100 percent certainty, but it is coming close to that.
Q: When you left F1 for rallying you spoke about the monotony – the same tracks, the same hotels, the same people, and the same questions…
KR: …and nothing has changed. And believe me, I didn’t expect any change! (laughs) Sure, from that aspect rallying is much nicer, but that is a part of Formula One and if you want to race in this category you have to accept all aspects of it.
Q: So despite all these downsides you found Formula One so exciting that you came back?
KR: I found the racing so exciting. I missed the racing. And it is a fact that Formula One is the highest form of racing. So you would rather take it than leave it.
Q: But on a professional level…
KR: As I just said, if you want to compete at the highest level of racing you have to race in F1. That is what I enjoy. All the side affects you have to accept for the benefit of racing at the top level.
Q: You probably also missed winning…
KR: I don’t know if you miss winning, but of course every sound person would rather win than lose! (laughs) But it is not often that you can win all the time. It’s not that I’ve got used to winning.
Q: The team had a tough time last year but for you – in F1 – it’s been some time since you’ve raced a car not capable of winning a Grand Prix. Is that a worry?
KR: Ah, I didn’t have an outright winner of a car for many years. I would say that in 2009 I didn’t exactly have a winning car and people seem to forget that so easily. And how often do you win? Okay, I had some good wins in Formula One, but if you compare that with how long I have been in Formula One, then I haven’t won so often. But that is obviously part of a career.
Q: When did the idea of returning really take shape?
KR: That was during the summer when I was doing some NASCAR races. I enjoyed that direct fight with competitors again, the wheel-to-wheel fight. I realised that I was missing it. In rallying you also race against people, but not physically, and it was that physical aspect that I really missed. After that realisation, I spoke to my managers and they started to sort things out for me.
Q: Why didn’t the negotiations with Williams work out?
KR: We simply didn’t find a solution that would satisfy both sides. You know how it is – one side wants something and the other something else, so you drift apart. That’s how it goes sometimes in life. And sometimes the bad comes good. I am very happy where I am now.
Q: Lotus team Principal Eric Boullier said that when he told the team that you were joining it immediately boosted morale. Did you expect you would ever be a morale booster?
KR: I know that the team had a tough year last season, but they have great people and so far it has been a good experience joining them. I hope we can have a good experience together in the months to come – and that will be an even bigger morale boost! If you ask me what my goal is for this season then the answer is that I don’t know. You must wait until the first couple of races and then I will probably be able to give a hint.
Q: During your two-year sabbatical you didn’t once attend a Grand Prix. Why?
KR: Well, I went to Monaco twice, but not to see the cars, only for business. And if you want to see cars properly – as someone like me, who is really interested in how the cars change, does – then you come to a test. And if you want to see the race then you see it on TV.
Q: Do you think anything significant has changed over the last two years?
KR: Not really, except for the tyres and having a different manufacturer for the tyres. The cars haven’t changed too much and everything else is business as usual.
Kimi Raikkonen says he has the answers he was looking for from his first experience of the new Lotus E20 after completing 180 laps during two days’ testing at Jerez.
The Finn did not match his pace from the opening day of the test, where he hit the headlines by going quickest of all. But Raikkonen declared himself satisfied by what he learned from the car and Pirelli’s tyres. He now hands over to team-mate Romain Grosjean for the final two days of the test. “I think the main thing was to get a lot of mileage right now,” said the 2007 world champion when asked by AUTOSPORT for his summary of the test. “The car feels pretty OK straightaway, and I think we improved it today, but today the conditions were a bit trickier than yesterday. “I’m happy with what we did over the two days.” Raikkonen added that the starting point for the E20 appeared to be positive when he could get the Pirelli tyres in a good operating window, as he continued his education process with the Italian rubber. “Some compounds worked better than others,” he said. “When they are new they are always good but once they get used… and it was quite cold so some of them were slightly better than others.
“But when they worked the car feels quite good so… I have no idea what the others are doing but I was quite happy about how things went. If the conditions are good for that compound and they get heat in them it seems to be fine but then some of them don’t like it when it’s cold and the tyre just doesn’t work,” he continued. “But when they work normally it’s not too bad, at least here, but it can be a really different story in Barcelona.” Raikkonen had a couple of off-track moments during his second day in the car and was delayed in the morning when he ran over a kerb and damaged the plank under the chassis – which then needed to be replaced. “I ran wide under braking for Turn 6, and just driving back in the gravel the edge of the kerb on the circuit was very high and it hit the front of the floor and we damaged that,” he explained. “So it took a while to fix it. Unfortunate.”
Kimi Raikkonen will have a familiar race engineer for his return to Formula 1 this year. Finnish reports in Turun Sanomat and the television broadcaster MTV3 claim that the 2007 world champion will work with Mark Slade.
Slade, recently at Mercedes GP working alongside Michael Schumacher, was Raikkonen’s race engineer at McLaren years ago. Slade also previously worked as a race engineer to Mika Hakkinen and Heikki Kovalainen. Raikkonen will start working together with his engineer at Barcelona at the last test before Melbourne. “I wanted him and I am pleased that it worked out,” Raikkonen confirmed. In other news, Eric Boullier has denied rumours Raikkonen is a shareholder in the Lotus team. It was reported that the 2007 world champion’s retainer this year was subsidized by owner Genii granting the returning F1 driver a small slice of the Enstone based team. “He has no shareholding. It is complete nonsense,” Boullier is quoted by MTV3. “Raikkonen has a two-year contract as driver,” he added. “Genii Capital holds 100 per cent of the team.” Boullier also dismissed suggestions Raikkonen, whose teammate is the reigning GP2 champion Romain Grosjean, is Lotus’ obvious number one driver. “There is no such thing in the contract,” he said.