Kimi Raikkonen's fifth place on the grid for tomorrow's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marks the Finn's best qualifying since the German Grand Prix in July.
The Lotus driver has struggled in recent races to match the pace of his team-mate, Romain Grosjean, but a change back to the short wheelbase E21 has helped him regain confidence in the car.
Raikkonen's driving style has always placed a lot of emphasis on the front end of the car and the combination of changing the Pirelli tyres mid-season and the development cycle of the car has clearly cost him momentum as the summer turned to autumn.
Today, however, Raikkonen looked to be able to drive the car more comfortably and naturally and after the session 'The Iceman' spoke to the media, including Crash.net
, about the changes to the car: “It [the wheelbase] isn't a big change but you can get the front end like I like it and I can drive normally so it's more like it should be,” he commented.
“Today it was not so bad. I think that the car will be good in the race so we should be up there. I hope that we can fight with the Red Bull's. We were OK yesterday and I think that when we changed the car it was better today in qualifying so we'll see. We're usually better in the race.”
With the Indian Grand Prix having been marred by drivers forced to make early pitstops because of the severe degradation of option tyres - race winner Sebastian Vettel was forced to make a stop after the second lap - Raikkonen felt that it would not be an issue this weekend, although he added we will only find out for sure during the race.
“We will have to wait until we have done a certain amount of laps. The tyre is better here [though, than] compared to India,” he confirmed.
Having flown into Abu Dhabi just in time for the opening practice session on Friday and his relationship with the team heavily under the spotlight as he hasn't been paid [see separate story - HERE
], Raikkonen dismissed new questions about the issue today and simply said: “I don't want to talk about that.”
by Stephen English at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi