There was much excitement in the F1 world on Monday when Kimi Raikkonen returned to a circuit at the wheel of a grand prix car. 813 days after he stepped out of his 2009 Ferrari for the last time, the former world champion began a two-day re-acclimatisation test at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit.
Returning to the sport with Lotus in 2012, the 32-year-old Finn on Monday did about 300 kilometres at the wheel of the team’s 2010 Renault car equipped with demonstration Pirelli tyres, enjoying a loophole in F1’s now tightly-limited test regulations.
“There is a lot to get used to,” a media statement quoted him as saying. “I’m happy because I was pretty quick to get back in the groove.”
And Raikkonen is quoted by Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport: “Of course it will take a little while (longer).”
Added Lotus’ trackside operations engineer Alan Permane: “Kimi was on the pace we expected straight away.”
18-time race winner Raikkonen, the 2007 title winner and twice the championship runner-up (2003 and 2005), spent the last two years in the world rally series after Ferrari replaced him with Fernando Alonso.
“We had several options for this year,” the Finn revealed. “I did a bit of Nascar in the past year and since I had a lot of fun racing other people again I decided to go back.
“And if you want to go racing then Formula One is the highest level and so that’s where I wanted to go the most.”
He said he is not worried about coming back to motor sport’s premier category after two whole seasons away.
“If you compare 2009 with the coming season, probably the biggest difference will be the tyres,” said the Finn, whose last experience in F1 was on Bridgestone’s control tyre. I don’t think there is a big difference with the cars.”
When asked how he has changed himself since 2009, he replied typically: “I don’t know – I was two years away.”