Il meglio deve ancora venire…–09/11/2012
Kimi Raikkonen promises Abu Dhabi win is just the start
Kimi Raikkonen has promised there is more to come from him and his Lotus team following their victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Finn, who returned to grand prix racing this year after a two-season absence, held off Fernando Alonso at Yas Marina to claim his 19th Formula 1 win after several near-misses earlier this year.
Raikkonen was confirmed at Lotus for the 2013 season just ahead of Abu Dhabi, and the 2007 world champion believes his win shows he has made the right decision.
"It’s a pretty good way to show that everyone’s made the right choice," said Raikkonen. "We’ve shown all season how good we can be, and in Abu Dhabi we showed we can win.
"There is more to come, I promise."
Raikkonen had finished on the podium six times before winning in Abu Dhabi, and he thinks Lotus’s persistence was the key to finally taking that elusive victory.
"We didn’t give up," he said. "We had a period where new developments for the car weren’t working exactly as wanted straight away and when you have to test new parts during practice sessions it’s very difficult to make progress, but we kept pushing.
"We continued with the exhaust developments we made during practice in Korea and India and the pace was promising all weekend in Abu Dhabi.
"I was never out of the top 10 all weekend and with that in mind I think we had a good idea that we could be competitive if we could just get qualifying right, which has been the big issue all season long. This time though, we got it right."
The Finnish driver said he will not change his approach despite the victory and claimed he never felt he had to prove anything.
"I’ve never cared really what people think – if I don’t finish the next race, then they’ll think that I’m as bad as that race. I’ll just do my thing, and if I’m happy with what I’m doing and it’s the best it can be for the team, then that’s that.
"So it doesn’t really bother me if people are thinking differently of me now, than what they did three hours before the race."
Raikkonen’s blunt radio messages to his team – including an instruction to "leave me alone" when informed of the gap to Alonso – became a sensation among fans after Abu Dhabi.
The Lotus driver said he was simply trying to stay focused.
"Apparently there were a few of our radio messages broadcast on TV and I think in those moments you could hear how much I just wanted to keep my head down, do my job and win the race. All I needed to know was the gap to the guy behind me.
"I think you can probably find other messages from me in the car if you search YouTube; even from my short time in NASCAR."
Raikkonen has made 500 T-shirts displaying his radio message to give to the Lotus team.
Lotus ‘never doubted’ Kimi Raikkonen would thrive
Lotus boss Eric Boullier says his team never had any doubts that Kimi Raikkonen would deliver in his return to Formula 1.
The 2007 world champion left the sport at the end of the 2009 season to compete in the World Rally Championship, later experimenting with NASCAR as well.
After his two-year absence, the Finn returned to F1 this year with Lotus and gave the team its first win of the season in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last weekend.
According to Boullier, Raikkonen’s performances this year came as no surprise to Lotus despite some scepticism elsewhere about his chances of a successful return.
"This was maybe a surprise for anyone on the outside of the team that doubted him, but for everyone on the inside it was not," said Boullier.
"Kimi has certainly made his mark and shown that he’s back in Formula 1 and back at his best form. Having him back getting podiums and a win is great for him, great for the team and great for the fans.
"Moreover, [his] ‘Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing’ [radio message] has already become a Formula 1 classic!"
Boullier, who joined the team back in 2010, admitted that his first victory as a team boss was very emotional.
"I received over four hundred messages at the track after the chequered flag! It was a pleasant surprise to see that a few of them were coming from our rival teams saying how happy they were for us.
"It was nice to hear that people in the paddock thought we deserved the victory. Also, standing on the podium as team principal of the winning constructor was something really special. It was a very emotional moment. I hope we get used to it very soon."
The Frenchman said his team has achieved the goals set for the season with its fourth place in the championship, but reckons it will have to push hard to reach the top three in 2013.
"Fourth was obviously the target we set ourselves at the start of the year and that’s where we are in the standings right now. Obviously, you can be fourth and close behind third position, or fourth and just in front of fifth. Our position relative to fifth-placed Mercedes is quite flattering.
"Being fourth and fighting with teams like Ferrari and McLaren – by having a win on the board and a number of podiums – has clearly put us in a position where we could develop a stronger image of a team growing and maturing; a team on the up.
"This is certainly appealing from a commercial point of view and the numbers of partners joining us this year is a proof of that.
"On the other hand, fourth is still fourth, and we know how much harder we need to push in developing our resources and the company to ensure we can break into the top three next year."