Kimi Raikkonen has hinted that there may be more to come from the Lotus F1 team in Melbourne this weekend, after suggesting that the winter 'pacesetters' may have been holding something back in pre-season testing.
While the general consensus, based on long-run pace, suggests that reigning world champions Red Bull and closest rival McLaren will be the teams to beat when the action gets serious 'down under', Raikkonen intimated that Lotus could be a threat to repeat Vitaly Petrov's unexpected podium from 2011. Both the Finn and new team-mate Romain Grosjean topped the times during testing in Spain where, despite being forced to miss almost the entire middle session in Barcelona, the Enstone team emerged with the greatest number of days paced.
"We could probably have gone a bit faster if we wanted, but I don't know what the others are doing," the 2007 F1 world champion told journalists at Melbourne's Albert Park circuit, "The car feels good, the lap time - at least in testing - was okay, [but] whether it's enough we will see over the weekend and over the next races."
Raikkonen, who was joined by fellow championship hopefuls Mark Webber, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel during the opening FIA press conference of the year, also revealed that he had not had to come to grips with the latest breed of F1 car, despite a two-year sojourn in rallying.
"It really hasn't changed a lot, the car feels pretty similar," he reported, "The tyres are slightly different, and I was expecting to have more difficulties with them, but they seem pretty good, especially when they are new. Of course, they will wear out a bit faster, but it's been nice to drive.
"Usually, you have a new car here every year, so it's not a big surprise. The car feels very similar in the test to what I remember in the past. You have DRS, [but] it's just a button that you push, it doesn't really change the driving itself a lot. It feels similar, I don't have very good things to compare, really, because it's a few years since I last drove an F1. It doesn't feel much different.
"Like I said before, [however,] I have no idea where we are going to be. We had a good winter, it could have been better but, hopefully, we are fast. We will know during the weekend, but I think that many teams will be fast so... Are we going to be in the front? I don't know, we hope we are going to be, but let's wait and see."
Asked how his lay-off from the sport might have affected him, and whether he was able to draw on past experiences at the likes of Ferrari and McLaren, Raikkonen again insisted that reacclimatising had been straight-forward.
"Like I said, it's the same people, similar stuff going on," he ventured, "In my mind, it hasn't really changed a lot [and] I don't think [I've changed] a lot, a little bit older that's all. It's the same really.
"I don't think this is my 'second' career. I've been racing all the time, just in a different thing. I've been racing at a few different teams and all the teams run a slightly different way, mainly because they are all different nationalities, but you always learn from all the people and all of the teams and I have good memories, most of the time, of the teams.
"I try to get things in the team how I know I like it and I'm very happy with the team, they've been great people to work with – easygoing, no real need to change anything. If you like to do something differently, they're happy to try to do it that way, so it's just been a good experience."