2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen makes his F1 race return with Lotus this March, when he will grace the grid for the first time since his Abu Dhabi outing with Ferrari at the end of 2009. Following the launch of his new team’s 2012 car, the E20, the Finn discusses his comeback and the year ahead…
Q:Why F1? Kimi Raikkonen: Formula One is something very special in my racing career, and you always want to race at the toughest level, so Formula One is where you want to race if you have a choice.
Q: How quickly did the deal come about with the Lotus F1 Team? KR: Everything came together quite quickly. We shared a common goal and everyone was happy. This was the only way to do it and everything went pretty well from there.
Q: What do you think of the team now you've completed two days testing? KR: I'm happy with the team, they are very nice people, very easy going and it was nice to work with them for the two days I did in the R30. I think we'll have a lot of fun in the season ahead and hopefully we will get some good results. I want a strong enough car to challenge for good results.
Q: When did you decide to finish rallying and to go back to Formula One? KR: When I did the NASCAR races, I enjoyed the racing and I want to do more racing. I still want to do rally and if I could I'd do them both at the same time - but this isn't possible. For sure I will do rallying again in the future. I want to do racing as I had a really good time in NASCAR racing against other people and I realized that I was missing this - that's when I decided that if there was a good chance to return properly that I would do it.
Q: If you'd been in rallying with sufficient time could you have been as good as Sebastien Loeb? KR: I don't know! I don't think anyone is as good as him right now! For sure I could have improved, but I don't know how far. I'd improved last year from where I was in 2010. I went to rallying to see how well I could do and I still think that it's one of the most difficult sports that I have ever tried. It's not easy! The guys at the front are very fast, but equally if you put them in a Formula One car they would probably have a similar story to me in rallying. I think I would need another couple of years with testing. With rallying there are so many different surfaces and it's completely different from Formula One.
Q: What are your thoughts on how F1 has changed since you last competed? KR: In 2010 I didn't really follow Formula One but I saw more races last year. It doesn't really look different, but there is overtaking in some different places where people can just drive past by opening the rear wing and the driver in front has no chance to defend himself - so is this really overtaking? I don't think it counts all the time. But for sure the show is better.
The tires make a difference too, as there is a big speed difference between when the tires are new and when the tires are old. In the old Formula One, you had to be so much faster than the guy in front of you to have any chance to overtake, but now with the tires and the DRS, it's different.
Q: Do you have anything to prove with your return? KR: I think people expect things from me, but as long as I know that I'm giving 100 percent and I'm happy with my driving then I'm happy. If those aspects are true and it's not enough, then it's not enough.
Q: How's your motivation? KR: There's always talk about my motivation, written by people who don't know me and couldn't have an idea on how strong my motivation is. If I didn't feel I had the motivation, I would stop. My feeling is that I probably drove some of my best races in my last season in Formula One and I was very happy with my performance. I've never had any issues with motivation.
Q: What are your thoughts on KERS and DRS - you didn't have them when you tested the R30. KR: I've driven with KERS before and DRS is just a button. Once you've done it a few times it will become automatic.
Q: How well do you know your new teammate, Romain Grosjean? KR: I think we will have a good relationship. I met him before Christmas and I raced against him in 2009. He seems a very nice and normal guy, so I don't see any problems there.
Q: How is your fitness for Formula One's challenges after two years rallying? KR: For sure, the G forces are different, but you get pretty good G forces in some tarmac rallies. The steering is probably a bit heavier in rallying too. You sit in different position and you use different muscles. Rallying overall is probably not as physically tough in short bursts like Formula One but it's pretty mentally tough as you spend the whole week for about 12 hours a day in a car driving. In this way rallying is much more tiring than Formula One. The driving itself is more physical in Formula One, but I'm looking forward to getting more sleep.
Q: Lotus F1 Team is fighting to be back at the front, how can you help in this battle? KR: In my last year at Ferrari we weren't always at the front but I'm a good racer and I want to get to the front. Lotus started well last year and we hope that the new car will be strong.
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