He’s just re-signed his contract with the team for 2013, and our Iceman gives us his thoughts on a frustrating race in India, how he will tackle the bright lights of Abu Dhabi, and just how he feels about his successful return to Formula One.
Kimi Räikkönen: "I’m sure it should be a more interesting race for me this time round!”
What’s your previous form at Abu Dhabi?
So far I have done only one race in Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. It was my last race with Ferrari and of course my last before I moved to rallying. You didn’t race for two years after that race – is there any relationship between the two factors?
That was a boring race, I can tell you! I finished the race back in 12th position and there was nothing I could do during the race. I’m looking forward to improving on my record at the track and I’m sure it should be a more interesting race for me this
What do you think of the circuit?
The facilities are second to none at Abu Dhabi. The track layout makes it really challenging for overtaking, while there are not too many places to pass. You really have to qualify well to be on the top, and to get a strong result from there. There are many corners and you need good overall downforce and grip. The car has to ride the kerbs very well, too.
Are there any distinct challenges at the Yas Marina Circuit?
Having an evening race with a mixture of day and night makes a different challenge from circuits that we see anywhere else. We start with the sun and finish with the lights. It’s different, interesting and spectacular too.
Give us a quick overview of your weekend in India…
I had a very good car there, but I just couldn’t do anything with it as I was not able to pass on the straight. It was quite disappointing but that’s how it goes. We put ourselves in that position on Saturday with the setup we chose for qualifying and we paid the price. We had the speed but not in the right place and when you are behind someone there’s not much you can do. I really thought we had a car which meant we could fight for a podium as our lap times were good, but the mistake we made on Saturday took all the chances out.
The Drivers’ Championship battle is pretty much gone for me I think, but hopefully in the next race we can have the speed to be able to take more Championship points.
Are you optimistic with the E20 for Abu Dhabi and looking forwards?
Hopefully we can be a bit smarter and use our race speed to take some more Championship points. The car is good, and if we manage to qualify higher, then I think we would be in a good position to be able to take the most from the next few races.
Your contract with the team for 2013 has just been confirmed; what have you learnt from your
return to Formula 1?
This season has shown me that I still love racing as much as I ever did. Obviously, I would have not come back to the sport if I did not feel like this. Driving a Formula 1 car still gives me the same inspiration and I feel the same passion for it.
Lotus F1 Team is your fourth team in Formula 1: how have things gelled?
I have been very happy with the team; how they work, how they approach the races and how they invest in developing the car. I think with the progress behind the scenes at Enstone we could be fighting for the podium even more often next year and also be able to make a stronger challenge for the Championship.
We, and around 500,000 other people, recently saw you signing an enforced contract on YouTube.
How civilized was the process with Lotus F1 Team in comparison?
Well the team did not need to tie me up and blackmail me with a photo album, unlike certain other contracts you may have seen me sign recently. That was not necessary on this occasion.
How strong is your motivation heading into the last races of this year and looking ahead to 2013?
My motivation is as strong as it’s always been. I’m keen to race on.
The Frenchman talks us through his favourite parts of the Yas Marina race track, his past experience there, and what he really thinks of the new Coandă exhaust.
Romain Grosjean: “I have a lot of good memories from Abu Dhabi”
What’s the Yas Marina circuit like from your point of view?
Abu Dhabi is another exotic destination. The track is not used very much during the year which means we know we’re going to get low grip there at the start of the weekend. The track looks very nice on TV and there are many second gear corners which should suit the E20; I’m looking forward to it!
What’s your previous experience at the track?
I have a lot of good memories from Abu Dhabi and know it quite well. Last year I took pole position and finished second in the GP2 Asia Series race and I have also won a GT1 World Championship race there. Most recently, my return to Formula 1 came at this circuit in a free practice session with the team last year so I’m looking forward to returning. It’s normally sunny and a nice place to be. Let’s see what we can do.
You struggled for grip in India; do you think there will be better grip at start of weekend in Abu
Abu Dhabi may be similar to India, but we have the V8 Supercars with us so they might clean it up quite well! I hope there is a little more grip than in India because most of the time I like to brake late so when there is no grip that is a bit difficult!
You ran the Coandă exhaust system for the first time last weekend; how did it feel?
The Coandă exhaust is now much better understood. We have to do some work to try to get better results in low grip conditions, especially in qualifying - which is somewhere that I think we can improve - and then in the race the car is just very, very good as usual. So we will continue working on it and try to get some good results in Abu Dhabi. Mainly I would like to start the weekend better than in India where FP1, FP2 and
FP3 were not good for me. I didn’t get the right feeling with the car immediately and it set us back for the whole weekend. I think we need to put that in order for Abu Dhabi. Our aim will be to try to start well, work hard and go into qualifying with more knowledge.
How was your race in India?
Honestly, I think it was one of my best races of the season, driving 100% on every lap. I made a good start and then really pushed hard to score the points, with some good overtaking moves in the race. Unfortunately I got stuck behind a Force India – just as I did in Korea – so I know the rear of that car very well! Hopefully they will see the rear of my car soon! The race was good, the car was good and the pit stop was fantastic; I think we were the second quickest pit lane entry-to-exit on the whole grid, so that is good to have in our pocket.
How happy are you that the team still has developments arriving on the car this late in the season?
It’s very satisfying. Clearly for us – and for everybody else on the grid – it is important. We’re getting some new parts in Abu Dhabi which we are looking forward to and everything we find now that works on the car we can use for next year. The development process is on-going; both for the present and future.