Formerly his strongest supporter, Mika Hakkinen is now questioning how quickly his compatriot Kimi Raikkonen can get back up to speed in F1.
When he retired a decade ago, Hakkinen recommended rookie Raikkonen to then McLaren team boss Ron Dennis by saying: “If you want to win, get the Finn.” Now, a 32-year-old Raikkonen is reportedly busy losing the four kilograms he put on during his forays in world rallying and NASCAR.
Hakkinen tells Bild am Sonntag: “The return will be very difficult for Kimi. He will have almost no time to test the new car — five or six days, that’s it. If you lose a day with a problem you don’t get it back, while in the past we used to sit in the cockpit from morning to night, because you get faster and faster the more time you have to get into the rhythm,” he said.
That is why, to help Raikkonen readjust after his two-year sabbatical, Lotus already has plans to circumvent the current testing restrictions by preparing the 32-year-old a 2009-spec Renault equipped with GP2 tyres.
According to Hakkinen, Raikkonen will still find it difficult.
“It doesn’t matter whether you are a world champion or not. In Formula One the competition has never been tougher. The fitness of the drivers, their technical understanding, it just gets better and better. These drivers, they work brutally hard! It will all make Kimi’s return much more difficult even than five years ago.”
Giancarlo Fisichella, whose last few grands prix were alongside Raikkonen at Ferrari in 2009, agrees: “Formula one is unforgiving, especially if you’ve been away for a couple of years.”
More optimistic for Raikkonen is 2009 world champion Jenson Button.
“This is a very good thing for the sport; he’s such a competitive driver,” the McLaren driver is quoted by France’s autohebdo.fr. “The guys at McLaren have told me that he is very good at setting up a car.”
Raikkonen travelled to Lotus’ Enstone base on Saturday and met with team owner Gerard Lopez, who sensed the former McLaren and Ferrari driver is highly motivated.
And “the more people that question it (his motivation) the better, because it’s only going to motivate him further,” said Lopez.