Kimi Raikkonen has conceded that, should he not raise his game in the next few grands prix, there is a very good chance that he will be asked to play a tail-gunner role for Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa in the Formula One championship race.
The Finn has appeared decidedly lacklustre in recent rounds although, until the European Grand Prix in Valencia two weekends ago, his results did not highlight quite how under par his performances had been. An engine failure last time out, however, has dropped the reigning world champion 13 points off Lewis Hamilton's lead, and he admits that he needs to close the gap quickly if he is to avoid being asked to defer to Massa, who is currently seven points better off.
Asked whether he could imagine the scenario where he has to support the Brazilian, despite 'team orders' not being permitted by the regulations, Raikkonen admitted that 'it can happen'.
"It all depends on how the next races go, and where we are at the end of the year, but we race as a team," he told the media ahead of this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix, "We will see. Hopefully, we don't end up in this situation as, hopefully, I will be in the championship up to the last race. But you never know what happens."
Spa-Francorchamps comes at just the right time for Raikkonen, for the Finn has been unbeaten at the classic Ardennes venue for the past four years, three races, spanning his time at both McLaren and Ferrari. He admits, however, that both his form and the reliability of his Ferrari need to come together at the same time if he is to add to that tally and close the gap on both Hamilton and Massa.
"It has been a good place," he said of Belgium, "Hopefully, it will be this year also. Definitely, [the past few rounds] haven't been the kind of races that we wanted. There has been a problem, but it is not the first time and it is not the end of the world.
"We have been trying to fix them and, hopefully, we have found something now and can get back where we should be. Things go wrong sometimes. You have bad races but, hopefully, now we can have a stronger weekend and get back."
A lot of Raikkonen's problems have stemmed from poor qualifying performances, reportedly because he has failed to get the F2008 dialled into circuits during Friday and Saturday free practice sessions. However, last week's group test at Monza saw both the Finn and Ferrari optimistic that they had found some sort of cure for his ills.
"In the races, apart from the last race, we have not been too bad speed-wise but, if you are stuck behind other cars, then it is pretty much over at that point," he admitted, "If you can qualify at the front, it will help big time and we should be fine. We try to improve on all areas and, hopefully, that has happened.