Kimi in search of a hat-trick

  • Other Sport
  • Friday, 27 May 2005

LONDON: McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen has two more cars and a host of bruised egos to deal with as he chases a third successive Formula One victory in Sunday's European Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring. 

While the Finn was savouring victories at Barcelona and Monaco, Jenson Button and Takuma Sato were kicking their heels, serving out a two-race ban imposed on BAR for being underweight at the San Marino Grand Prix. 

The Honda-powered team thought they were harshly dealt with by the governing FIA and they are not the only ones in the paddock with a point to prove this weekend in Germany. 

Championship leader Fernando Alonso is determined to put Renault back on the podium after he missed out on a top-three spot for the first time this season with fourth place at Monaco. 

BACK IN THE HUNT: McLaren-Mercedes driver Kimi Raikonnen steers his car on the racetrack during the Monaco Grand Prix on 22 May. Raikonnen won the race ahead of BMW-Williams German driver Nick Heidfeld and his Australian teammate Mark Webber.

Alonso, who won three of the first four races of the season, suffered a difficult race in Monaco last weekend and could only finish fourth after struggling with the tyres on his Renault. 

But the Spaniard believes he can bounce back. 

"The car had a brand new aero package in Monaco, and I don't think we really saw the benefits of it there. At a more normal circuit, like Nuerburgring, we definitely will," he said. 

But Renault's record at the Nuerburgring is not strong, and McLaren, whose car now seems to work well on any type of circuit after early season problems were ironed out over the first four races. 

Seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher and Ferrari are hoping the sole Saturday qualifying format helps end their longest run without a win since they joined forces in 1996. 

Raikkonen's compatriot Mika Hakkinen was the last McLaren driver to win three races in a row, going on to win his first title in 1998 as he benefited from the kind of consistency the team have struggled for over the last few seasons. 

After a third place at the Nuerburgring in 2002, Raikkonen has been forced to retire from the race for the last two years, most disappointingly in 2003 after he had started on pole for the first time in his career. 

But after three poles and two wins so far this season the 25-year-old, who trails Spain's Alonso by 22 points in the drivers' standings, is full of confidence. 

“The car is fast and reliable,” the Finn said at Monaco. 

“I like the (Nuerburgring), last year we were reasonably okay with the old car, which wasn't very quick anywhere ... so let's see what happens. But I think we might have a good weekend.” 

BAR are without a point in the constructors' standings after being stripped of their tally from Imola and missing out on the last two races. 

But the team have good memories of last year's race when Sato was the first Japanese to start a Grand Prix from the front row and Button finished third. 

“I think the team are so fired up that determination alone will make us so much stronger,” Briton Button said. 

Renault are determined not to let Alonso and his Italian team mate Giancarlo Fisichella down again. 

“We learned a lesson in Monaco and we will be looking at how we can begin applying solutions to the problems from the next race onwards,” said Renault's chief engineer Pat Symonds. 

Schumacher, who won from pole last year, thinks Ferrari just need a bit of luck. 

“We haven't really had much luck lately,” said the German, who is eighth in the championship, 37 points behind Alonso. 

“Maybe that will change at Nuerburgring.” – Agencies 

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