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Tuesday March 20, 2012

Lotus’ chatty Raikkonen back in the points on F1 return

MELBOURNE: Kimi Raikkonen sounded confused about some of the rules but seventh place in Sunday’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix proved that the former champion had lost none of his racing ability despite two years out of Formula One.       

The 32-year-old Finn, who walked away from the sport at the end of 2009, had qualified his Lotus a disappointing 17th on the starting grid for his 157th Grand Prix.       

In an incident–packed race at Albert Park, the 2007 champion showed his raw speed and fighting ability had not diminished as he carved his way through the field to claim six points.       

The man who made his F1 debut in Australia with Sauber in 2001 felt his return could have been even better.       

“It feels like I’ve never been away,” he said. “Yesterday, we made some mistakes which cost us quite badly so it could easily have been better in the race. I made a good start but then there was an accident in front of me at the first turn, so we lost a few places there as I had to almost stop and move onto the grass to avoid it.

“That made the race harder again as we had the speed, but a lot of traffic to get through.        

“When you look at all these things we could have finished in a much better position.”       

Raikkonen said earlier this week that, having “better things to do”, he had not watched much F1 during his time away and clearly some of the finer rule changes had passed him by.

When the safety car was deployed late in the race, he called over the team radio to ask why blue flags, which indicate tailenders should give way to cars lapping them, were being waved at him.       

“Those flags are not for you Kimi, they’re for the cars behind you,” came back the response from the pit wall.       

Team principal Eric Boullier said there had been a constant dialogue with the often monosyllabic Finn during the race.       

“Actually he was very talkative in this race,” he said. “Don’t forget he didn’t race for two years and it’s a new format with DRS and new procedures, we had to explain him for the lapped cars after the safety car.       

“We have some procedures but we just reminded him because he’s not used to seeing cars overtaking during the safety car.”        

There was great disappointment for Raikkonen’s French team–mate Romain Grosjean, who had qualified third but was knocked out of the race on the first lap when Pastor Maldonado’s Williams clattered into his front right wheel.       

“I think we could have had great result today,” he said. “It’s frustrating as I really wanted to make the chequered flag and even the podium, but on the positive side the car is performing very well.” – Reuters              

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