Kimi Raikkonen says he feels he will still be as fast as ever when he makes his return to F1 with the Lotus team next year.
The Finn will return to the sport next season having spent two years competing in the World Rally Championship after his departure from Ferrari, with his return having been one of the main talking points in F1 circles in recent weeks.
The 2007 champion will aim to get behind the wheel of a two-year-old car during January prior to the start of pre-season testing with the new 2012 car and he admitted that he felt ready to make his return.
“When I went to rallying and when I tried NASCAR, there were many new things to learn, but with Formula 1 I feel like I'm coming home,” he said. “I can't wait to get behind the wheel. I am more motivated than ever and I don't think I've lost any speed. Getting on top of the tyres will be the hardest thing, of course, but I'm not really worried.
“Although the technical regulations don't seem to change much, they apply to a lot of areas and quite a few elements will have to be re-designed. As a result, the cars will be significantly different next year. The order could be shaken up, which will make things very interesting.”
Raikkonen has already made a number of visits to the team base in Enstone to see progress being made on the 2012 car and he said he was upbeat about the future as a result.
“My two visits to Enstone have been great,” he said. “The first one, at the team's Christmas party, made me realise how much support I have there. The second one, last week, allowed me to understand that this team has not been world champion by coincidence. I also saw all the investments they have made recently: new simulator building, CFD upgrade, 60 per cent wind tunnel… It gives me a lot of confidence for the season ahead.
“We don't test the new car until February so it's a long wait. However, I should be able to jump into a two-year-old F1 car in January. Of course, there will be the usual training, but I will also be working on getting to know the team better and making sure I fully understand all the changes since I have been away.”