Kimi Raikkonen admits that he needs to focus on the final seven races of the Formula One season, but insists that he should not be written out of the world championship battle just yet.

Perhaps reacting to the comments of three-time world champion Niki Lauda, who suggested that the Finn was not even a wild card contender for the 2008 title, Raikkonen pointed out that he had actually closed the gap on points leader Lewis Hamilton ahead of the summer break, and was still close enough to the Briton to launch an assault on a second crown.

Although the results do not necessarily show it, Raikkonen is aware that he - and Ferrari - have not been on top form through the middle of the season, and has vowed to ride his luck and improve matters over the final seven races of the season, starting at this weekend's inaugural European Grand Prix in Valencia.

"The break is over and it's time for the last part of the season to start - it's time to concentrate again on my work," the Finn admitted as Formula One regroups after the extended break since Hungary, "F1 is a sport, which never stops, and the team has worked hard to be ready for the race in Valencia. From now on, every single race will be extremely important - and every single point will have a great value. The less there are, the more important they become."

Raikkonen heads to the first of the season's new calendar additions lying five points adrift of Hamilton, but still in second place after team-mate Felipe Massa lost an almost certain win just three laps from home in Budapest. With both drivers still firmly in contention - and Raikkonen's form inconsistent - the Scuderia is unlikely to throw its weight behind the reigning champion just yet, but the Finn is confident that he can establish himself as the team's best chance of taking the title.

"This season shows that you should never give up," he insisted, "There were some races where things didn't go well but, for one reason or another, I was able to collect some precious points. My position after Hungary is better than before the race.

"We haven't lost anything, but we need to get better results - consistently. I think that the outcome of the championship will be very tight, with Ferrari and McLaren very close together in terms of performance and three drivers in a position to win the title. I need to have at least one point more than my competitors after the last race of the season - this is the sole aim, the rest is details."

With time running out, and Hamilton seemingly benefiting from a shared upswing in form at McLaren, Raikkonen knows that he needs to make the unfamiliarity of this weekend's venue count in his favour. Although Valencia has its own permanent track at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, Formula One will use the latest flagship street circuit to hit the schedules, built around the city's Americas Cup port, as the European GP switches from the Nurburgring - where it capitalised on Michael Schumacher's popularity - to Spain, in deference to double world champion Fernando Alonso.

"We have to start well at Valencia, where it's more important than in other places to drive with continuity from Friday on," Raikkonen commented, "I've only seen the new track from the position of an on-board camera, but it seems to be very fast for a street circuit. I always love to drive on new tracks and I am always very quick to know them, so I can't wait to race at Valencia.

"I just hope I'll have a trouble-free weekend to try to set the car up in the best way possible, especially for the qualifying lap. Qualifying will be extremely important, although I think that there are some possibilities on the track to overtake. If it's hot, that will help Ferrari but, like Montreal, you also need a bit of luck - and I hope that it will not end for me as it did in Canada."

Raikkonen posted his only retirement of the season so far on the semi-permanent track at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, but is optimistic that he can bring the F2008 home - and in a strong position - when the season gets underway again this weekend.

"There's no need to worry until we race," he insisted, "And then we just have to fight until the end and try to win...."


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