Kimi Raikkonen has insisted that his bid to retain his Formula 1 World Drivers' Championship laurels goes on – despite having spun away victory in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend almost within sight of the chequered flag.
The Finn, who many had counted out of the fight for title glory in the wake of his lacklustre form of late, was back to his best with a vengeance around the circuit widely regarded as the greatest test of a driver's true skill the world over – and one where he had been unbeaten since 2002.
Muscling Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa aside on the run down to Les Coombes for the first time, Raikkonen went on to pass Lewis Hamilton for the lead when the Briton spun at the beginning of lap two, and he would maintain that advantage all the way until the closing laps – looking good to register his first win in a staggering nine races, having last triumphed in the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona all the way back in April.
That, however, would ultimately prove not to be, as the 28-year-old lost control on the increasingly treacherous track surface on lap 42 with just two to go, spinning his F2008 across the grass and into the wall at Fagnes whilst trying to regain his lead from Hamilton, who had only a matter of moments earlier relieved him of his long-time advantage.
“I came here to win and I came close,” an understandably disappointed Raikkonen acknowledged afterwards, admitting to having taken a 'win or bust' approach to proceedings. “In the final laps the track conditions were very critical; unfortunately I ran wide, and when I tried to get back on-track I spun and ended up in the wall. It was a shame because today the car was working really well.
“I got a good start and managed to pass Felipe on the straight, and then overtook Hamilton when he spun at the start of the second lap. On the soft tyres I could run at a good pace, while the final set, the harder ones, was not quite there – definitely not as good in performance terms as those I'd used in the past couple of days – and the balance of the car was not as good as earlier.
“The arrival of the rain definitely did not help. In these conditions, if you are in front you have to be more cautious, as you don't know how much grip you'll find in each braking area. That's how Hamilton managed to close on me and then happened what you all saw.”
Indeed, after the slick-shod pair had swapped positions several times – with an error from one almost immediately negated by a counter-error from the other as the rain came down with increasing intensity – Raikkonen's crucial mistake has left him sitting 19 points off the head of the drivers' standings, and surely now ready to be cast into a supporting role at Maranello to Massa's challenge for the crown. Not so, he insists.
“It's the second race in a row that I've failed to score points,” the 17-time grand prix-winner acknowledged. “Clearly the championship situation is what it is, but I'm not the sort to give up that easily.”