Reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen admits he could be even stronger on race day if he can improve his qualifying performance.
The Finnish sensation stormed to victory in last week’s Malaysian Grand Prix after qualifying almost half a second adrift of his team-mate Felipe Massa.
Despite the dominant showing from his Ferrari F2008 in the race, Raikkonen admits that there is still room for improvement in Saturday’s all-important grid decider.
“We have to get the qualifying in a better shape,â€ he asserted on his website column.
“When the qualifying performance is there, it helps a lot also for the race.â€
The 28-year-old spent most of the opening laps tucked up behind the gearbox his Brazilian counter-part before nailing the Sao-Paulo hero at the pit-stops with a blisteringly fast in-lap almost a second quicker than anybody else.
“The race was run exactly according to our plan,â€ confirmed Raikkonen
“While we don’t have any problems, the speed is there. No doubt about that. Our car is strong enough to take and keep the first place.â€
Despite recognising the need for improvement in qualifying Raikkonen is adamant that ultimately it is the race that matters.
“The qualifying could have been better. But like I always say, it does not matter afterwards. Only the result counts.â€
Indeed, analysis carried out by Forumula1.com reveals just how much quicker Raikkonen can be on race-day.
In 2007 Massa scored twice as many pole positions than Raikkonen (6-3) and started from the front-row eleven times compared to Raikkonen’s five. On average Massa out-qualified his rival by almost a full grid position per race.
Compare race-results and the story is flipped on its head. Raikkonen scored twice as many wins as his Brazilian team-mate (6-3) and had a podium strike-rate of 70% compared to Massa’s 58%. And of course, it was Raikkonen who went on to clinch the world championship.
Raikkonen traditionally elects to run a heavier fuel-load than his team-mate and is happy to sit behind the gearbox of Massa before pouncing at the pit-stops in clean-air.
The Sepang result was almost an exact replica of the French Grand Prix in 2007 when Raikkonen leap-frogged Massa at the pit-stops with a blistering in-lap.