A typically laconic Kimi Raikkonen has claimed that he didn't mid missing the final two grands prix of 2013, and expects to be in good shape for the coming season as a result.
The Finn, speaking in a video to accompany the launch of Ferrari's new F14-T, said that his break had allowed him more time to recover from an essential back operation, even though many believed that his absence had been driven by the money problems he had with previous employer Lotus. Although the team insisted that the matter was being addressed, Raikkonen claimed that he had not been paid up to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and subsequently missed both the US and Brazilian races.
It is true that walking away from Lotus allowed Raikkonen to go under the knife to address an old back injury that had flared up a couple of races previously, and the 2007 world champion is confident that he will now be ready to begin testing his new mount when the pre-season officially gets underway at Jerez on Tuesday. The Finn is scheduled to give the F14-T its debut in southern Spain before handing over to new team-mate Fernando Alonso for the final two days of the session.
“Did I miss driving an F1 car? Not really...,” he said, “It was nice to have a break as I had to have a small operation, so I didn't really have a choice as I wanted to be 100 per cent as pain free as possible for the coming season. I think it was a good choice - the best time to have this thing done. I think we'll get enough running in F1 this season.”
Raikkonen, who is notorious for his dislike of the aspects of F1 that surround racing itself, returns to the team that dispensed with his services to make way for Alonso at the end of 2009, and remains its last F1 world champion, despite some title bids by the Spaniard in the meantime. Although it remains to be seen whether the pair – Ferrari's strongest line-up for some time – can work together, the pre-season platitudes were all positive.
“It's nice to come back to the Ferrari team, the place where I won the world championship in 2007,” Raikkonen admitted, “Obviously, the aim for 2014 is the same, we want to do the best that we can, to try to win races and world championships. Time will tell whether that will happen but, definitely, we want to be fighting for the biggest
With F1 entering a new technical era in 2014, with a fresh approach to engines, drivetrains and aerodynamics amongst other things, Raikkonen is wary of predicting great success for the Scuderia despite the obvious potential of its line-up.
“I hope we are going to be the strongest team,” he noted, “We both want to win and time will tell whether we can bring the championships back to Ferrari, but there are a lot of other things – especially with the new rules – that will [determine] if the results are what we want them to be. But we're more than capable, both of us
, of being up there.”