Kimi Raikkonen has acknowledged that he can - and must - do better than he has done in recent races if he is to remain in with a shot of this year's Formula 1 Drivers' World Championship laurels - a target the Finn is adamant is still within reach.

The reigning F1 World Champion has appeared only a pale imitation of his former self for much of 2008, languishing most notably in qualifying - with a three-nil deficit to Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa over the last three races and eight-four over the season as a whole - but also, latterly, in the races too, with no victory now since Barcelona all the way back in April, and just three podium finishes from the interceding eight grands prix.

Having trailed Massa once again throughout the European Grand Prix weekend around Valencia's all-new Juan Carlos I Marina circuit, indifferently battling against a Toyota and Scuderia Toro Rosso until his engine blew late on whilst the sister F2008 scampered on to an unrivalled triumph, Raikkonen knows it is high time to change things around - or else be cast into a supporting role to his team-mate and kiss the defence of his hard-fought crown goodbye.

"I think I can do better than that so I am trying to improve," he admitted, quoted by international news agency Reuters. "I am sure I can still improve my qualifying and my results. There is still a long way to go, so let's wait and see what happens.

"Sure, it was definitely not the weekend I was hoping for, but these things happen in racing and it is not the first time. I am not too worried. I do not believe that - despite this negative result - I am now out of the running for the title.

"There are still six races to go and 60 points up for grabs. We have seen that the situation can change really quickly, even if I realise things are now more complicated. We are in a bit of a worse situation in the championship, but if we get all the things sorted then I think we still have a chance to come back.

"We know what the issues have been, but unfortunately we haven't been able to sort them out. Hopefully now in the next test we can work a bit and try to find the solution for it. If we get qualifying right it will help a lot."

The Finn has registered just 28 points since his last success in Barcelona, compared to 46, 50 and 36 for title rivals Massa, Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica respectively. Amongst the 'issues' that have held him back - aside from his qualifying woes - has been reliability, with an engine failure sidelining him with 13 laps left to run in Valencia, after his race had already been compromised by a pit-lane error during his second stop that left a Ferrari mechanic requiring medical attention.

"I lost a place at the start and I was stuck in traffic for all of the first stint," he related of his race. "Then, when I had a clear track ahead of me, I was able to push and was doing good lap times. At the second pit-stop, I made a mistake and left before I should have done.

"It was my fault and unfortunately I ran over the guy who was refuelling. Fortunately, Pietro [Timpini] is not too badly hurt. I wish him all the best and hope he gets better soon."

Raikkonen can take comfort in the fact that in 2007 he recovered a 17-point gap to world championship leader Hamilton to clinch the trophy in the very final round - and he is just 13 behind this season, with greater scope to turn the tables.

Ferrari are well aware, however, that in order for the 28-year-old to stand a chance of doing so, the unreliability that has afflicted the scarlet machines in recent weeks must be stopped in its tracks immediately.

"Unfortunately, once again, we have suffered with a reliability problem," the Scuderia's team principal Stefano Domenicali related, "which lost us precious points. Now we have to find out what happened in yet another engine failure and then decide how to react. Clearly what happened is serious, and we will have to do all in our power to make up for the ground we have lost through reliability problems in the coming races.

"Now we must continue to push to the maximum to develop the car and improve reliability, in order to be as well-prepared as possible for the forthcoming races. We still have two test sessions, at Monza and then Jerez, and a lot of hard days work in the factory.

"Finally, I want to say a few words about Pietro Timpini, our mechanic unfortunately injured in Kimi's second pit-stop - his first words were to say sorry, as though the incident was his fault. It is thanks to the passion, dedication and professionalism that these guys show, on a daily basis for Ferrari, how special is our team. We still have faith in [Raikkonen], of course. He is a world champion and we are a loyal team."

"Unfortunately, yet again, we were not reliable," echoed Maranello's technical director Luca Baldsiierri, "both from a technical point-of-view and in how we operated on the track, given what happened during Raikkonen's pit-stop and then the failure of his engine. Initial investigations seem to point at a similar failure to the one Felipe experienced in Hungary.

"Fortunately, Pietro Timpini - the mechanic operating the refuelling, injured at Kimi's second stop - got away with just a small fracture to the left foot, and it is not particularly serious.

"Today we have seen two sides of the coin. We have great potential, from both the team and the car, capable of putting us in front of everyone else, but if not all elements are operating at their optimum then we are throwing away precious points that could cost us dear. We must work to remedy these problems, and that's what we will do starting in the days that follow."


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