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The iceman returns: Kimi Raikkonen back on podium but wants to take it higher

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The iceman returns: Kimi Raikkonen back on podium but wants to take it higher
Apr 20, 2015, 3:59 PM

"Finally we have two strong drivers on whom we can count," the words of Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene after Kimi Raikkonen's second pl...

"Finally we have two strong drivers on whom we can count," the words of Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene after Kimi Raikkonen's second place finish in Bahrain, his first podium since returning to Ferrari at the start of 2014.

Raikkonen's result, following on from the front row grid slot won by Sebastian Vettel on Saturday and Vettel's win in Malaysia, have sent Ferrari back to Maranello for the spring break with their tails up.

They did not win in Bahrain, but they were pressing the winner Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages and with brake problems starting to appear for the Mercedes, another few laps might have given Ferrari the win.

Ironically Ferrari had been counting on Vettel, but the German made three unforced errors in the race, the final one of which damaged his front wing and forced him to lose fourth place to Williams' Valtteri Bottas. "I'm not happy with the way I drove today," said Vettel.

For Raikkonen it was clearly a strange moment and it was written on his face in the hour after the race as he spoke. On the one hand he had to be relieved, if not happy; it was finally a solid result to underline the pace he has shown since Melbourne at the end of an encouraging weekend for Ferrari. But on the other hand, he is a champion and race winner and anything less than the top step is always a disappointment. He didn't want to be seen to be too happy to finish second, as he said, "If you celebrate second place, it's all over!"

Raikkonen had been tipped by many in the paddock to be the more competitive Ferrari driver in the opening rounds of the season, but his stron form in practice was not carried through into qualifying. In Melbourne he was fifth behind his team mate and Felipe Massa. In Malaysia he was only 11th and then 6th in China.

Bahrain was the first race this season where the front two rows were just Mercedes and Ferraris, but clearly he has work to do to match Vettel's single lap pace with the car.

Raikkonen's race hinged on strategy and offsetting himself against the other drivers in the top three, for an attack at the end, something he did a lot in his Lotus days and it's no surprise that the new strategy man at Ferrari is Inaki Rueda, whom technical boss James Allison hired from Lotus.

He initially gained third place from Rosberg at the start with a wily move around the outside into Turn 1, but then lost it again. One thing Ferrari will certainly want to review is how they were overtaken three times by Rosberg in the race; once for Raikkonen and twice for Vettel.

His strategy will be analysed in detail tomorrow in the UBS Race Strategy report here, but what is perhaps less well known is that Ferrari has an ace up its sleeve in races this year on the ERS and turbo sides of the power unit. In particular they have a very strong battery and a small compressor, which is very efficient and rival engineers say that this means they can run at a reasonably aggressive preset mode for the whole race, whereas Mercedes has a lower regime in its race mode, to which it sometimes need to descend in races.

Kimi Raikkonen

"The whole package has gone forward," said the Finn. "A big chunk of it is the engine but you cannot give all the credit to them.

"The car has improved a lot, there's a lot more downforce, it's handling a lot better.

"I had a pretty hard time last year," added Raikkonen, reflecting on a 2014 season where he ended up with just 55 points, compared to 161 for his unsettled team mate Fernando Alonso. "This year in the beginning, (we had) just some bad luck in the races but, you know, the team has done a great job over the winter and everybody is pushing together, in the same direction and I’m sure we are only going to get stronger and better as a team and improve the car. So, it’s a great place to be.

"If we carry on like this I'm are that soon we will be fighting for the victory."

Raikkonen has won two races since his comeback; with Lotus in Abu Dhabi 2012 and Australia 2013.

Having been told this weekend by Arrivabene to "push", because his 2016 contract is on the line, the signs are that the 35 year old has got the message.

What did you think of Raikkonen's performance? Leave your comments below

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Kimi Raikkonen Shop Now
Teams Ferrari Shop Now