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Martin Whitmarsh, a former boss of the famous Finn some years ago, has admitted he has been impressed by Kimi Raikkonen in 2012.
The pair worked together between 2002 and 2006, when the now 32-year-old won nine grands prix for McLaren. Raikkonen switched to Ferrari in 2007, winning nine more races and the title, but after 2009 he quit F1 to go rallying and Nascar racing.
He has returned to F1 with Lotus this year, and despite not yet adding to his tally of career wins, the ‘Iceman’ is tipped as a dark horse for the 2012 championship.
When asked about Raikkonen, McLaren team boss Whitmarsh told Brazil’s Totalrace: “He is very talented.
“I think he is one of the fastest men on the planet,” he added. “People tend to underestimate Kimi, because of how little he talks. But he is a very intelligent and impressive driver.
“The Lotus is a good car and so, put together, they’re a real threat,” said Whitmarsh. “I’m sure you’ve noticed that Kimi does not make many mistakes; he always does a good job.
“So I’m not surprised and I think he has the ability to improve even more throughout the season,” he added.
Raikkonen’s former McLaren stablemate, Pedro de la Rosa, told Spain’s El Confidencial that Raikkonen is “definitely one of the best drivers I’ve ever seen”. And at the wheel of the impressive black and gold E20, it looks like a winning combination.
“Well, it hasn’t won any races, so it’s not a winner,” Raikkonen insisted. “We are still pretty happy but of course you want to do better. We’ll see what we can do in the second part (of the season),” he added.
Lotus’ technical boss James Allison thinks a shot at the title is not out of the question.
“Why not?” he told the British broadcaster Sky. “There are an awful lot of points for coming first and an awful lot of races left. The lead is miniscule compared to the points available.”