Kimi Raikkonen has contended that the pressure on Ferrari has now been relieved a touch following the Scuderia's
first podium finish of the 2009 campaign in the Monaco Grand Prix at the weekend – but the former Formula 1 World Champion insists that the team is still 'not fast enough yet to fight for first place'.
After its worst start to a season in the top flight in almost three decades – failing to score in any of the first three races – the Maranello-based outfit was finally afforded some fresh air in the glamorous Principality, where it has triumphed on nine previous occasions.
For the most successful team in the sport's history and one with no fewer than 31 titles to its name over that period, third place for Raikkonen and fourth for team-mate Felipe Massa might not seem like too much to write home about, but in the current circumstances it was an encouraging result indeed.
Raikkonen's only regret afterwards was that a tardy getaway when the starting lights went out – regardless of his theoretical KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) benefit – had potentially cost him the runner-up spot in Monte Carlo, as Rubens Barrichello in the second of the two Brawns shot past on the run down to Ste Dévote for the first time. From thereon in, the Finn never managed to regain the place.
“There's not much use for (KERS) if you start spinning your wheels straightaway,” the 29-year-old rued, “so that's where we lost the start. At any other track I could have kept second place. You gain a lot with KERS on long straights, but it doesn't really make much difference in Monaco – it's more [about] the first jump off the line. They (Brawn) had soft tyres which definitely helped, [whereas] we had harder ones and the right-hand side is probably a little bit better for the start anyhow – it seems to be very slippery on the left. It was not the first time I have been in second place and lost a position. Being first [on the grid] probably would have given us a better chance.
“We were faster than Rubens when he had his problems with the tyres at the beginning, but there was no way past him. We lost a lot of time and that was the only chance to try and stay behind Jenson [Button]; after that it all played out with very similar pace. We were forced to stop a bit earlier because the people behind us were catching us quickly and we went a little bit longer [than Barrichello] in the second stint, but they (Brawn) seem to be faster in the pit-stops and we lost a lot of time. I don't know what they did, but we were a long way behind when I came out of the pits.
“After that it wasn't easy for me. I needed to push all the time. We pushed to try to jump Rubens in the pit-stops, but we couldn't. I didn't know how many more laps Felipe had than me; we thought that it was going to be pretty tight (between the pair), but in the end it was not that close. After that we could slow down and just save the brakes and tyres, and we sped up a little bit at the end because there was one of the Red Bulls catching us up, so we just had to pick up the pace a bit. Apart from that, after the last pit-stop it was great.”
Though still some way short of the scarlet brigade's usual lofty expectations, the result was nonetheless a welcome shot in the arm and enabled the team to leapfrog traditional rivals McLaren-Mercedes into fourth position in the constructors' title chase. The trick now will be to keep the progress going over the coming races.
“Without being third at the start, we could probably have taken second place,” Raikkonen mused, “but it's still not what we wanted really. I think, overall, we're not fast enough yet to fight for first place. In this situation we need to be happy with what we achieved after a very difficult start to the season – we still got a good result for the team compared to what we had in previous races this year. It's definitely disappointing to finish third and I am not happy with third and fourth places, but it's good for the team – and for sure we're happier as a team now that we're scoring points.
“We'll probably get a little more peace now from everyone too. We're coming back; it will take a while before we're exactly where we want to be, but we have definitely made big steps in recent months. We need to be positive. The people have been working very hard at the factory and at the circuit, and we're starting to get results now, which always helps people to push harder. We should get a new package again for the next race, which should help as well. Third and fourth is not bad, but we still have work to do to be where we want to be and fight for first place.”