Kimi Raikkonen insists that Lotus can challenge for the F1 title this season, although the Finn says he is making no promises about what the year ahead may hold.
The 33-year-old proved to be something of a revelation last year on his return to the grid, taking victory in Abu Dhabi and scoring points in every race bar one as he finished third in the standings after two years away in the WRC.
The new E21 has shown strong speed in pre-season testing so far, despite some niggling issues along the way, and Raikkonen said his aim this season was to at least replicate the kind of form he displayed last year to challenge at the head of the pack.
“You have to be realistic about your chances, but after last year we should have a chance,” he told the official F1 website. “We don't have the budget, but if we get it right and can be consistent and reliable then we probably can put ourselves in a position where at least we do have a chance. We will try, but I'm not making promises. [A good year would be] last year with additional wins.”
Raikkonen will be the second oldest driver on the grid during the year ahead and he said he was eager to make the experience he gained with the Lotus team last season pay in his second season with the Enstone-based squad.
“Sure experience helps a bit, but I've never figured out when it's the point that you have enough experience,” he said. “What comes then? If you do ten thousand more races I don't think you will get seriously better. I think what is more important is that you can look back on experience from the previous season with your team. If you have experience with your team and the people there, that helps.
“This is a real racing team - they want to race and not worry about the other stuff. There are not many teams that do that. There is far less politics than at many other teams. I enjoy it here. Sure there are things that the team doesn't have - we don't have the budget of the big teams - but we are all trying to do the best we can with what we have.”