Kimi Raikkonen has underlined the belief that the ambitious Lotus F1 team can challenge for this year's world title after helping to reveal its new E21 in an online 'ceremony' on Monday evening.
While the Finn was generally his usual understated self when it came to answering questions and discussing the year ahead, he was quite certain that the Enstone-based squad could once again be a frontrunner and, if the confidence shown in the E21 at its launch could be proven to be well-placed, knew how to take on, and beat, the likes of Red Bull
“I think they [have what it takes to win a championship],” he insisted, “It's clear from working with them that they are racers, and you can see in their history that they've won championships. Nothing I saw last year made me think that another championship was impossible in the future.
“Of course, there is some pretty tough competition out there and everyone wants to win, but the team have beaten everyone before and there's nothing to say they can't do it again.”
Having claimed a race win in his first season back from a self-imposed exile in rallying, Raikkonen silenced a few doubters who didn't believe that he would be a force five years removed from his world title but, despite his belief in the team, is not about to jump to hasty predictions about the campaign that lies ahead.
“Maybe I proved a point for other people [in 2012], but not for myself,” he shrugged, “I knew I could still perform well in F1 given the right opportunity; it was only other people who had doubts. I don't think you ever stop learning, but there is less to learn than if you're a rookie. I don't think I could say I'm a rookie.
“We had new tracks last year - that's always something nice to learn and, for me, best learnt on the tracks themselves. There will be a new car which we'll want to develop and get working at its best. There are always changes in the sport - some small, some big – but, generally, everything's pretty similar, and the feeling of racing on track is pretty familiar.
“This year will be my second season with Lotus, and my eleventh season overall in F1, so I've got a pretty good idea of what to expect. I'm sure it will be an exciting season and I'm sure there'll be lots to talk about. For me, I will continue to do the best I can. Let's see how good our car is, and how good the cars of the opposition are too.”
Clearly, Raikkonen isn't prepared to make ambitious claims for the year ahead until he has had the chance to pit the E21 against rivals that are still to be unveiled, but he knows what he needs to do from inside the cockpit.
“I need to do the best job I can,” he said matter-of-factly, “I've not driven the E21 yet so it's difficult to say what could or could not be possible. We know we had a good car last season, but everyone is working hard to make the best car. I will be working with the team to help get the car as strong as we can and then, in Melbourne, we'll have our first taste of results. It's a long season from there. 2012 was a good start, but let's see what we can do in 2013.”