Kimi Raikkonen: Ït’s too early to say if we can fight for the Championships right to the end."
After taking his third podium finish of the year in Bahrain, our Iceman (Kimi Raikkonen) looks forward to racing closer to home with the start of the European season.
Yourself and the team currently occupy P2 in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships; are you pleased with how things are going? For sure it’s an okay start and we’re in a better position that this time last year, but there’s a long season ahead and it’s too early to say if we can fight for the Championships right to the end.
What’s required to bridge that gap to P1? Some more wins! To catch the leaders, we have to work twice as hard as they are. It’s no secret that we want more speed from the car in qualifying; it’s so tight up there at the front and we really need to be on the first two rows to fight for victories every time.
It’s good to be able to start the European season where we are as this is when you see teams starting to push on with lots of new parts for the cars. It’s still early days, but to have scored strong points since the start of the year is obviously better than not having them.
We need to keep scoring points in the same way; even if it’s a bad weekend for us, we need to keep finishing as well as we can. That’s how we will fight to the end of the season.
How is the circuit of Catalunya for you? I have won twice in Barcelona and I was on the podium there last year too, so I really look forward to going there again; hopefully to end the weekend with another good result. It’s a circuit where you have to get everything exactly right to be at the top.
All the teams have tested many times at this circuit, so to get an advantage there is not very easy. The set-up is crucial as the track changes with the wind and temperature so there’s plenty of work for the engineers too.
Is it good to be racing in Europe again? I really like racing in Europe. We don’t have to travel that far so all your energy is saved for the weekend itself. Traditionally the real season starts when coming back to Europe. For me, it’s great.
The Circuit de Catalunya is the only circuit at which you’ve tested the E21 so far; does that help matters? That’s true, but you have to remember that was at the end of February and the beginning of March so conditions were very different compared to what we hope to see in May.
It was very difficult to get the tyres working properly when we were last there, but it was the same for everybody. We all start from zero again in FP1.
The team didn’t get so much mileage at Barcelona during testing, but reliability doesn’t seem to be so much of a concern now the season is underway? I didn’t have that many laps there in testing as there were problems with the car and I also missed a day as I was unwell.
That said, me and the team know the track pretty well so I don’t think we’ll be too surprised about which way the track goes or what setup to use on the car.
Even though I didn’t get a lot of mileage in pre-season, the main thing was I felt good in the car the whole time. Our car seems to be good at every circuit so far...
You were quite reserved after the podium finish in Bahrain; were you happy with the result? You’re never really happy if you don’t win, but I suppose second place is as close as you can get.
We could maybe have been a few places higher in in qualifying which would have made things easier, but I drove to the maximum and luckily we found the pace in the car that was missing in qualifying. Let’s hope I’m happier in Spain.
After his first podium appearance of the season in Bahrain, our man in car #8 (Romain Grossjean) sees no reason why top points finishes can’t become a familiar state of play.
After a start to the season which fell short of your high expectations, why did everything come good in Bahrain? It’s no secret that before Bahrain my feeling hasn’t been right with the car. It wasn’t the chassis, the aero or anything like that, but we took a while to get everything to my liking and that’s been frustrating.
We managed to put our finger on the issue and I feel much more comfortable now. I really had a good sensation behind the wheel on Sunday in Bahrain, and a podium position at the end of the race was the result. I could put the car more or less where I wanted which is all you want as a driver.
Third place was a deserved reward for everyone after all our hard work. How good was it to get that podium after your tough start to the year? The race was really enjoyable with a lot of overtaking. There were a couple of tense moments where maybe things got a little too close, but it was a lot of fun! To come from P11 through to the podium is really satisfying.
I saw P4 on the board and Paul [di Resta] was not too far ahead, so I thought “come on, this is the podium, let’s go!” I knew I had fresher tyres but it wasn’t easy as I had to push but at the same time look after them, which is hard for a driver when you have another car in your sights. Luckily we managed to get past near the end, pull out a small gap and maintain it until the flag!
How do you feel the E21 is evolving? We’ve been able to see progress with the lap times so we know that the upgrades being brought in are working. Last year’s car was already very competitive – we achieved a total of 10 podiums in 2012 – so it’s good to see the team has retained and developed the best performing areas of the 2012 car for the E21. For me, after Bahrain, I’m feeling much more at home with the car and I hope that there will be many successes to come in 2013.
What are your thoughts on the topic of tyre management? Tyre management has always been part of the qualifying and race strategy. I don’t know about others, I just know that I always push as much as I can to obtain the best result possible. Of course, if you drive a certain way or adapt yourself you can get more out of the tyres than if you don’t, but that’s just part of being a racing driver; you always have to adapt to extract maximum performance.
What will be the key to a good weekend in Spain? In Barcelona it will be important to qualify well as it will be much harder to overtake than in Bahrain. As a team, this is an area where we can still improve a little bit, but we have some ideas of how to do that and hopefully we’ll be able to make the front row.
What are your thoughts on the Circuit de Catalunya? Everyone knows Barcelona very well from testing. The first four corners which make up the first sector are pretty fast, then there’s the slow final sector with between turns 10-15. Out of turn 15 you need a good rear end of the car with strong traction.
It’s important not to overheat your rear tyres and managing degradation will be important – even with the harder tyres which are now allocated – as when you reach high degradation levels on your tyres you are nowhere on lap time. Tyre management will still be the key area for a good performance in the race.
What do you need to keep getting podium results? To keep finishing in front of the competition! We’ve had consistency already, finishing every race in the points, but now it’s the big results we’re chasing and getting the car as I want it has been a vital ingredient.
Now I have the tools that I want at my disposal I can really push. In some ways you can say my season starts now! My podium in Bahrain was a very good start to that challenge. If we keep working the way we have been so far this season as a team I’m sure we can achieve great things.
Coming to Europe with second position in both the Constructors’ and drivers’ Championship shows that Lotus F1 Team is performing well, but it’s no time for complacency says Team Principal Eric Boullier.
The team currently holds P2 in both championships; what’s the secret to sustaining that challenge? The secret? Good strategy, a good car and two good drivers! Achieving a one-off result is one thing, but keeping momentum is a far bigger challenge and I’m pleased to say we’re doing a great job of that so far this year.
It’s such a finely balanced and competitive season. If we look to our most recent race in Bahrain, on Saturday it looked like maybe we had lost our edge having qualified below expectations. Fortunately, we were always confident in our race pace and that confidence proved to be well placed.
The race in Bahrain was a pretty special one for the team: do you ever get a feeling of déjà vu? It was just like in 2012! Having Kimi second and Romain third was a great result, but just like in 2012 there was Sebastian [Vettel] on the top step. This year’s result was much more difficult, especially after our qualifying performance, but we showed flashes of pace throughout the weekend and confirmed that speed when it mattered in the race.
To come away with a double podium when the top six would maybe have been a more realistic pre-race target was a great performance from everybody involved. There was a pretty special feeling in the race team and that was just magnified when I got back to Enstone to see everyone in the factory. It was a well-deserved result.
Kimi is right there in the drivers’ championship battle... Kimi is a fantastic driver and you can never rule him out in any race. In Bahrain, he drove a strong race to manage the tyres and was comfortable in second by the chequered flag. In Australia he won the race and said it was one of his easiest wins. We want to ensure he has more easy races in the future.
How pleasing was it to see Romain back on the podium? Very. Consistency has been there already for him in the first three races, but I think fighting at the front again will come as a big relief to him after a difficult start to the year. His season really starts now.
What’s been the secret to unlocking his pace? We sat down with Romain to assess where things weren’t quite working and the team did a good job to find a few little things which helped him get back that positive feeling with the car again. He clearly enjoyed every second on track in last race – making a solid start and pulling off some strong overtaking moves – and I think that enjoyment showed in his performance.
When could the next win come for the team? We always want to win and our podium successes this year seem to have made us all the more hungry to taste the champagne. We know we are facing other equally competitive teams and only one team and driver get to stand on the top step at each event. Of course, it would be fantastic to start our European season with a win.
There’s always a lot of talk about the development battle; are you confident the team can match the pace of improvement of the other teams? This is just another aspect of the sport. We have a strong development programme for the E21 and I’m confident we can continue to improve it through the year, just as we did with the E20 before it.
Most teams tend to bring a fairly major upgrade package to the first European race of the season and we’ll be no exception. I’m very pleased with how the development of the this car is progressing and I think there’s plenty more to come from us.
Lotus F1 Team