Kimi Raikkonen is refusing to get carried away by his Australian Grand Prix success, but remains optimistic that the new Lotus will be a contender in this weekend's race at Sepang.
The Finn sprung a surprise on the F1 paddock by coming from seventh on the grid to win a race in Melbourne that many were prepared to hand to Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull. Raikkonen managed to go the distance on two sets of tyres, while his main rivals all had to make a third stop after failing to make their rubber last, and acknowledged that being able to drive w
“Our plan was to do two-stop, [but] it's always difficult, especially the first races, to really know when to stop, and not doing it too early and not too late,” the 2007 world champion acknowledged, “We got it, like [trackside operations director Alan Permane] said, exactly right. The team worked very well and we had a good plan, we followed the plan and it work out perfectly for us.
“I knew that the car is quite good. It's been feeling good all weekend and, when we did the longer run, it felt good. We only destroy the front tyres so we knew, if we get the front tyres lasting, it should be fine. In a way, I was pretty confident but, of course, you have to get through the start and the first lap - and it's the first race, so you never know what's going to happen with the conditions and the circuit after the rain and, with the tyres, there are a lot of question marks. But I felt I had a good car and it turned out to be pretty good.
“I could save the tyres and I could go fast if I needed and I could really drive very easily. It's one of the easiest races I've done to win the race. Hopefully, we can have many more of this kind of race….”
Raikkonen also insisted that his qualifying effort, running slicks on a still greasy track surface, had not been representative of the E21's true potential.
“I was pretty disappointed this morning after the qualifying,” he admitted, “Obviously, there was only one lap really on the dries and I took it a bit too easy and got a bit of a small mistake in one corner. It was more timing and getting it right than really the maximum speed from all the cars, so it was not the ideal starting place - but it was still ten places better than last year, so not a disaster in that way.”
With the Malaysian Grand Prix just a week after Australia, Raikkonen's win has caused a rethink over the F1 pecking order, although the Finn is quick to point out that the very different conditions in Kuala Lumpur will have an effect on performance. With pre-season testing having largely been run in cool conditions, and Melbourne having witnessed lower temperatures than normal – along with a lot
of rain – Raikkonen concedes that the weekend will be something of an unknown for everyone.
“It's a difference place, [and] it's going to be much hotter there, so it's very difficult to say how the cars will feel, who will be fastest after having just one race,” he pointed out, “I think we have to do two or three races before we really know who is where and what's going to happen.
“It's probably going to rain again in Malaysia at some point, but it will be a different circuit, different conditions. Our car worked well here at least and usually, at least last year, in hot conditions it's been good for us so, hopefully, it will turn out to be another good weekend.”