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Raikkonen rebounds back to his best in Singapore
22 September 2013
When it emerged that Kimi Raikkonen was suffering from back pain on Saturday and that his participation in Sunday's race might even be in the balance, there were those who wondered whether the Finn had simply had enough of driving for free after revealing earlier in the week that he was struggling to be paid by the Lotus F1 team.
The cynics speculated that Raikkonen might just park the car and take it easy on Sunday. After all, what could he really do from 13th place on the grid on a tight and twisty street track like the 23-turn Marina Bay Circuit in Singapore? It was hardly as if he was going to be able to get on the podium from there.
Two hours later, not only had Raikkonen gritted his teeth and worked through the pain, he'd also put the Lotus on the podium at the end of one of the toughest and most physical races of the season. There's no question that the Finn certainly earns his money, whether or not it actually arrives in his bank account.
"It's been a difficult weekend, so to finish on the podium is a good result," said Raikkonen, as ever the master of understatement. "The car felt good and it could have been even better if I'd been able to do more work in practice, but even with a better qualifying performance I think third was the maximum we could achieve today."
As for his back problem - the legacy of a racing accident 12 years ago - Raikkonen said it was much improved on Sunday compared with the previous day when it had impacted his qualifying performance.
"I didn't feel it that much in the race," Raikkonen insisted, before admitted that "Yesterday was not ideal and I almost didn't drive.
"It's not the first time I have had issues with my back and I know I have some work to do over the winter so we will see what we can do," he added. "Now after the race it's not 100 percent, but we have two weeks to rest and get it right.
"We did the best we could, and could not achieve much more today," he added. "We have to be happy enough with finishing third and we can sort the problems for the next race."
Certainly the contrasting fortunes of the two Lotus drivers were turned on their head overnight. After excelling in qualifying on Saturday, Romain Grosjean's run in the Grand Prix on Sunday came to a premature end when a problem with his car's pneumatics meant first a lengthy call to pit road to top up the air supply, and then ultimately retirement a few laps later when the issue proved intractable.
"The race was going pretty well and I think a second or third place finish was a realistic prospect," said Grosjean. "We had a good strategy pitting under the safety car and we should have finished well,.
"Unfortunately today my engine had other ideas," he sighed. "We lost air pressure and the team tried to fix the problem by topping it up with an additional pit stop, but that didn't work so we had to retire which is never what you want to happen."
The team picked up a post-race reprimand from the stewards after TV coverage showed one of the Renault engine specialists attending Grosjean's protracted initial pit stop to be without the protective headgear now mandatory for everyone working on pit lane during the race since the incident with the FOM cameraman hit by an errant tyre in Germany earlier this season.
"We'll look at why it happened as it was a brand new engine and put solutions in place to ensure it does not happen again," pledged Renault Sport F1 team support leader Ricardo Penteado. "Air consumption had been inconsistent throughout the race so we pitted him to top the air back up, however the consumption remained high so we were forced to retire the car on the next lap."
"It's unfortunate that Romain had the problem with the pneumatic system of his engine as he showed strong pace in the race after putting in superb performances on both Friday and Saturday," commiserated Lotus F1 team principal Eric Boullier.
"Were it not for Romain's engine problems we should have had both cars home in third and fourth," he added. "Once more Kimi drove an exceptionally strong race today - even without considering his back pain - whilst the team did an amazing job with the strategy for both drivers."
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