On the day that his team principal called the row over how Formula One's world champion should be determined, 2007 title winner Kimi Raikkonen has underlined the importance of racing for every possible position.
Speaking on his way to the season-opening grand prix in Melbourne, the Finn admitted that he was looking forward to getting back into the fight after a disappointing 2008 campaign, and stated his intention of getting off to a typically strong start on the streets of Albert Park.
"It's always a good thing for a driver and a team to have a good start into the season, especially when we remember how the last two seasons ended as far as the drivers' championship is concerned," he reasoned, "I won with one point in 2007, and my team-mate was one point short in 2008, so that means that every point counts. Two years ago, I won in Australia, while we had several problems last year, but our goal is to immediately gain some good points."
'Problems' in Australia summed up Raikkonen's season, in which he not only suffered his share of technical gremlins, but also appeared a shadow of the driver that won the 2007 title, prompting some to even suggest that he may not be suiting up in Ferrari's iconic scarlet for 2009. In the end, however, the Finn penned an extended deal with the Scuderia and, after a winter rejuvenating himself, he is back and itching to get underway.
"I enjoyed this winter break more than usual," Raikkonen admitted, "I spent most of the time with my family and friends in Switzerland and Finland, but I mainly trained very hard - and in a different way - to be ready for a very demanding season. Amongst other things, I've taken part in two rallies in Finland with Fiat's Grande Punto S200 and really had a lot of fun, but it also was good training for the upcoming races. Now it's time to get serious...."
Having weathered questions about is motivation through the second half of last season, Raikkonen insists that he fired up for 2009 and looking forward to getting to grips with the new-look F1 in competition.
"I can't wait to start a new season," he insisted, "Putting on the helmet and racing is something worth living for, and I can confirm that I like the F60 more than last year's car. It's much more fun to drive and reminds me more of the cars I was used to some year ago.
"The number of tests has been limited, but I had fun working on a completely new car. It seems that a really long time has passed since the last race in Brazil, especially considering all the changes to the car, and it will be really interesting to see how its development will evolve. There's a lot less of aerodynamic downforce than last year, so we'll be slower in the fast corners, but the car will have much more grip in the slow ones due to the slicks, and therefore the lap times haven't changed a lot.
"From the first test, the whole team was positively surprised by how well the KERS works. It is something very interesting and easy to use, and I hope that it will make overtaking easier. Everybody is expecting more overtaking now, but I think it's still a bit too early to say what will happen and if the lower downforce will help when you're in a slipstream."
The sweeping rule changes that took effect over the winter have produced a different look to the timesheets in testing but, amid suggestions that perennial rival McLaren might have been 'sandbagging' with its midfield times and that 'newcomer' Brawn GP may have been running light to attract vital sponsorship, Raikkonen is not being drawn into any premature conclusions as to Ferrari's potential for success.
"It's difficult making predictions considering the many rule changes this year," he conceded, "Ferrari was very competitive during the tests; but we'll do the F60's countercheck at Melbourne, when we'll all meet in the race with the same fuel at the same time. Only then will we see how strong we are - and maybe we've got to wait for a couple of races to have a clearer situation. Albert Park is a very particular circuit, just like the city itself is very special, so maybe we've got to wait until Malaysia to see which teams will be ahead."