Kimi Raikkonen has conceded that he needs to start winning races again if he is to challenge for the 2013 world title, even though Lotus has made a step forward in performance.
The Finn finished as runner-up for the second time in as many race as he led the, admittedly distant, pursuit of Lewis Hamilton at the Hungaroring but, having not taken the chequered flag first since the season-opener in Melbourne, he is beginning to wonder whether it is possible to close the gap to championship leader Sebastian Vettel over the nine remaining races of 2013.
Since that unexpected victory in Australia, Raikkonen has racked up no fewer than five second-place finishes, and moved back into second place in the overall standings with his result in Hungary, but still trails Vettel by 38 points with just two European races remaining before the end of season 'flyaways' begin.
“I think we've made progress, for sure, [but] we always hope for more, myself and the team hopes for more,” he admitted after the Budapest race, “I was happy with the car in the race but, obviously, when you start from such a bad starting place, it's difficult to make big progress on this kind of circuit.
“I managed to do [the race on] two stops, and we're still pretty competitive, so we're happy how we've done, but we're here to try to win races and, if we keep finishing second and third - like we've done many times this year - it's probably not enough for the championship.
“The best thing today was that, when we finished second, we gained a few points on Sebastian. It's better than nothing but, with a win, it would have been a much bigger difference.”
Second could easily have been third – and a bigger deficit to Vettel – had Raikkonen not employed all of his experience in defence of his position towards the end of the race. With the Red Bull bearing down on him, and within DRS range, the Finn made his Lotus as wide as legally allowed – although Vettel may not necessarily agree with that – and did enough to ensure he remained just over a second clear at the flag.
“I knew that my tyres were pretty okay, and I was good through the last sector, so I was pretty sure there was no chance to try to overtake me into the first corner,” he reflected, “Obviously, turn two was a bit more tricky for me all race, and he got a good run once before and then a second time. I defended, [and] maybe I'm over a bit on the right and it's a bit tight, but I kept him behind. That was the only time he had a good run on me.
“It is very difficult to overtake because it is so narrow on top of the hill and, after that, I had no issues. That was the only part of the circuit that I really had some problems with the tyres. Unfortunately, I keep making the race a bit difficult for myself [on Saturday], so hopefully we can fix that and be more to the front at the beginning of the race.”
Admitting that he was unlikely to visit Enstone during the extended summer break before Belgium – 'I don't design the car so there's not much use for me there,' he pointed out – Raikkonen was also reluctant to predict Lotus' fortunes at Spa.
“I don't know,” he said, “It's a different circuit, so I have no idea. Last year, we were not very strong there, [but] I think we know the reasons and, for sure, our car is better this year. Is it good enough for fighting for a win? We will see in Spa....”