Kimi Raikkonen has revealed he is prepared to race in the midfield this season as he returns to Formula One with Lotus. The Finn, a winner of 18 grands prix with top teams McLaren and Ferrari, has spent the last two years in world rallying.
For the first time since he stepped out of his Ferrari at the 2009 season finale, 32-year-old Raikkonen returned to the wheel of a F1 car this week at Valencia.
“I was expecting it to feel faster than it was,” he admitted to the BBC. “Ok, Valencia is not the fastest circuit, but it was still pretty normal.”
Raikkonen is also braced for an average season, admitting in Zurich to Italy’s Autosprint magazine that he is unlikely to be a frontrunner in 2012.
“I expect to have to fight in the middle group,” he said. “But it will not be a drama. It’s no different to my last year at Ferrari.”
It is believed Raikkonen was ousted by Ferrari two years ago because the team’s lucrative new sponsor Santander was willing to pay handsomely for Fernando Alonso.
Typically, ‘Iceman’ Raikkonen has no regrets.
“I have no resentment towards anyone.”
But he has had to pay out of his own pocket for his recent rallying and Nascar forays, and is having to once again plot a course to the front of the F1 grid.
“Of course the championship is the goal,” Turun Sanomat newspaper quotes him as saying. “It’s fine to try it, but I am not obsessed about having another championship or not.”
Raikkonen said his Lotus deal is “basically for two years”.
“I don’t have any long term plans. Let’s see how it goes with Lotus.”
His next outings will be at the wheel of the new car at Jerez.
“Generally, if the car feels good right from the start, you are usually competitive (for the season),” said Raikkonen. “The races I don’t think are so different (from 2009),” he added. “Vettel was strong even then even though there is much more passing now, but that depends on the moving wing.
“I haven’t tried it (DRS) yet, or the KERS because it was the 2010 car (at Valencia). But it’s just one or two more buttons to push.”
As for his fitness after two years out, Raikkonen said he felt good after almost 700 kilometres at Valencia.
“I don’t feel in the neck any stiffness,” he said. “I probably expected to have more problems in the neck but I didn’t really have any.”