Kimi Raikkonen refuses to rule himself out of this year's F1 championship battle, despite trailing current leader Fernando Alonso by 48 points heading into this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix.
The Finn, who returned to the top flight with Lotus this season following a two-year sabbatical in the WRC, has given himself an outside chance of a second title after taking three podium finishes in the four races prior to the summer break, and sees no reason why he can't continue to chip away at Alonso's advantage as the championship heads into a closing run of nine races in 14 weeks. Raikkonen was 21 points behind Alonso with three races to run in 2007, but claimed two wins and a third in the final three races to steal the crown by a single point from the Spaniard and McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
"Apart from Alonso, the rest are pretty close to each other and there's a lot of points to be won, so we'll try," he told BBC Sport
at Spa-Francorchamps, "We still have a good chance, so why not?
Critics will point to Lotus' failure to join Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes and even Williams amongst this year's winners, despite both Raikkonen and team-mate Romain Grosjean having claimed podium finishes. The Enstone team currently lies third in the constructors' championship, ahead of Ferrari, and Raikkonen is confident that it can continue to make progress, particularly if he can conquer his qualifying woes.
"We try to do the best [we can], but we haven't managed to put it together this season," he said of his Saturday performances, "We know, more or less, the reasons and we'll learn from those and make it better. I have been making mistakes and there have been some mistakes on set-up on Saturdays. It has been working okay on Sundays, [although] not as well as we hoped. Small things can make a big difference."
With second-placed Mark Webber, reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton and Raikkonen all covered by just eight points, the Finn - who finished second to Hamilton in the most recent race at the Hungaroring - is hoping that building on his previous record at Spa will move him up the rankings before F1 heads off on the seven 'flyaway' races that close out the season.
"It's not any more special than other places," he insisted, attempting to play down a record that has saw him win three straight between 2004-07, "It's a nice race circuit and usually it gives nice racing, but I know it as well as any others. It just has been pretty good for us, but I have had some bad races also, so it's not like we come here and we suddenly should be good. It can be a disaster. Hopefully it can be a good normal weekend. We should be up there but we don't know yet."
While Raikkonen's record at Spa is solid, and Lotus is expected to debut its 'double DRS' system device, however, the weather forecast could yet be the biggest enemy to the Finn's ambition, with rain expected at some point during the weekend.
"He is in a car that is capable of winning here this weekend, [and] they have this little aerodynamic gizmo that they are going to try out and race for the first time this season, which gives them a straight-line speed boost and that should help," Sky Sports
Ted Kravitz pointed out, "The car is capable, but what might go against Lotus is that it is quite chilly here, it is anorak weather, and they like it hot. The second thing that might go against them is that they like the softer tyres and here we have two of the hardest tyres we bring to all the circuits. So they will have to overcome both of those to win here this weekend."