Title contender Raikkonen happy at Lotus - for now
Formula One title chaser Kimi Raikkonen says he is happy at Lotus — for now — even as speculation swirls around possible vacancies at the 2007 world champion’s previous teams Ferrari and McLaren.
The taciturn 32-year-old’s consistent displays in his comeback season after two years in rallying have lifted him to third in the standings with seven races remaining.
Raikkonen arrived in Singapore on Wednesday to pursue his long-shot title challenge on the city-state’s street circuit and try to close the 38 point gap on Ferrari’s championship leader Fernando Alonso.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, winner of two of the last three races, is just one point ahead of the Finn.
With talk of Hamilton mulling a move from McLaren to Mercedes dominating paddock gossip, and Alonso’s under-performing teammate Felipe Massa out of contract at the end of the year, Raikkonen’s future has come into focus.
“I have a good relationship with the team...people are pushing 100% and they are real racing people not so much politics, they want to do well in the races and that is a good starting point,” said the tired-looking Finn.
“I enjoy working with the people, very nice and I’m happy here but you never know what happens in the future but right now I’m happy with what’s going on,” he added.
Raikkonen enjoyed five solid years with McLaren from 2002 and twice finished runner up in the championship before he switched to Italian giants Ferrari where he collected his sole title and left at the end of 2009 to go rallying.
Lotus team owner Gerard Lopez said this month that Raikkonen was happy to stay at the former Renault outfit, who were embroiled in one of the sport’s biggest scandals after it emerged they had asked their driver Nelson Piquet junior to crash on purpose in Singapore in 2008 for tactical reasons.
Raikkonen also crashed under the floodlights on the narrow, twisty street circuit that year but did set a race lap record that still holds.
The Finn, with six podium finishes this year, expected a tough race again on Sunday night.
“It is quite hot and humid here and of course a bit different with the evening race than normal, it is a challenging circuit but hopefully we can do well,” he said.
“It’s a street circuit so it always makes it a little bit more tricky when you try to get the best out, if you make a little mistake, there is a big chance to hit the wall, in a normal circuit you have some run off areas.”
Hamilton and Alonso have each won three races this year with Raikkonen yet to triumph since he began his comeback. However the Finn has finished his last 10 races in the points, his best scoring run since Ferrari in 2007/8.
“Winning is the easiest way to achieve the championship, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to win this year but we have been putting ourselves close to there, giving us a chance at least...we haven’t made any big mistakes,” the Finn said.
Lotus team principal Eric Boullier said Raikkonen and French teammate Romain Grosjean, returning after a one race ban, could look forward to some improvements to the car this week on a circuit which should suit them.
“There’s no reason to think that a podium will be out of reach,” Boullier said.
“We’ve been quite competitive on twisty circuits this year and Singapore shares a lot of Monaco and Valencia’s characteristics... Kimi has always been quick in Singapore; even if he hasn’t had the best of luck during the races themselves.
“We have a few upgrades scheduled for Singapore and they should bring some extra performance.”