Despite being away from F1 for a couple of years, Kimi Raikkonen
is wise enough to understand that setting the pace on the opening day of winter testing is nothing to get excited about.
The Finn has made a much-publicised return to F1 for 2012, linking up with the Lotus team in a bid to kick-start a career that largely stalled while in the World Rally Championship, and got his season off to a flying start by topping the times on day one at Jerez de la Frontera. However, with Lotus having enjoyed 20 laps to bed in its E20 during a 'promotional day' prior to the test, it was little surprise to see Raikkonen out in front as the rest of the field got to grips with their new machines for the first time.
“It was a positive first day of testing and everything went almost to plan," the 2007 world champion reported, "We had no major issues and I got a good feel for the car and the tyres. The tyres were more of a challenge in the afternoon when we ran with a scrubbed set but, overall, it was a positive day.
"The lap times don't matter today. I'm happy with the balance of the car, which feels good, and the fact that we didn't have any major issues. Also, I did more than a race distance today and did not have any physical problems at all, which is good. I'm looking forward to making further progress with the car tomorrow.”
Although he started the day with a blend of systems checks, temperature monitoring, data correlation and aero performance evaluation, Raikkonen was the first to feature at the top of the timesheets, clocking a 1min 19.670secs best that would remain the target for the rest of the day. In all, the Finn completed 75 laps, with just a KERS battery change in the afternoon session interrupting his progress. Trackside operations director Alan Permane echoed his driver's sentiments regarding times, acknowledging that there were other, more pressing, areas to be satisfied with.
“We enjoyed a strong first day with the E20 in both performance and reliability and this is a testament to all the hard work done by everyone at Enstone over the winter," he noted, "It's always nice to be top of the timesheets, but the main encouraging factor from today is the car's reliability - apart from a small KERS problem this afternoon, it was faultless.”
As it has been on every outing so far, the team was happy with both Raikkonen's performance and feedback.
“It was a flawless morning, with a slightly interrupted afternoon as we changed the second of the KERS batteries which we ran today," technical director James Allison confirmed, "Overall, it was a very promising day in terms of reliability and gives us a good springboard for the rest of the test.
"So far, Kimi's feedback on the car has been complimentary in terms of the balance, the braking and other features. The steering is slightly heavy for his liking at the moment, but we already have a different steering rack being completed which he will use in Barcelona."
Raikkonen continues in the E20 on day two at Jerez, before handing the car over to team-mate Romain Grosjean
for the Thursday and Friday sessions.