Team boss Eric Boullier says Kimi Raikkonen has shown himself to be a 'special animal' for the way in which he has put together a championship challenge on his return to F1 this season.
Having joined Lotus after two years away, Raikkonen has produced an impressive campaign to lie third in the standings heading to Suzuka, with six podium finishes leaving him 45 points behind Fernando Alonso despite the fact he is the only driver in the top seven not to have won a race.
Speaking ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, Boullier said that fact was an indication of how well Raikkonen had been driving this season, with the aim being for the Finn and team-mate Romain Grosjean to keep picking up points to help the Enstone-based team in the title race.
“Kimi is a special animal,” Boullier said. “His racecraft is always fantastic; he manages to extract 100% from the car on Sunday and to make the most of every opportunity. Who would remember, today, that he's been out of this sport for the last two years?
“Now, the priority is to score points regularly with two cars because the Constructors' Championship is really important to us. Romain has shown in Singapore that his raw speed is still there. He did not make any mistakes and will be able to build on this experience in Suzuka. Something tells me that the end of the season will give us quite a few nice surprises.”
Lotus heads to Japan still in with a chance of third in the constructors' championship despite struggling to match its earlier performances in recent races, but Boullier said it was important to remember that team is still on target to meet its objectives.
“As I have often said, it is important not to get carried away in this paddock,” he said. “When things are good, people have to remain calm and remember what the initial objectives are. When times are tough, being overly pessimistic does not help either. With the E20, we can rely on a tidy and reliable racing car and I think we have surprised a few people this year, but we need to progress one step at a time.
“We've always said that our target this year was to finish fourth in the championship. I'm not saying that we won't chase Ferrari until the end of the season, or that we don't want to, I'm just putting things back into context. People should remember where we're coming from. Pushing too hard or reviewing our objectives in the middle of the season could only have a negative effect. This is not a lack of ambition, it is down to experience: rushing things in F1 will – more often than not – mean collapsing. We'll keep pushing; we're doing our best and the 2012 season has been good for us so far. We'll then see where this takes us.”