Kimi Raikkonen has hinted that he will return to form with a vengeance in Formula 1 in 2009, after the reigning world champion revealed he had 'learnt a lesson' in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix this weekend that will be 'useful' in the future.
The 17-time grand prix winner has struggled in qualifying for the majority of the current campaign, making him look like little more than a shadow of the man who pinched the laurels at the last in 2007, as he has invariably trailed team-mate Felipe Massa on Saturday afternoons and consequently given himself too much ground to make up come race day.
After lining up on the front row on the grid around the Shanghai International Circuit – the second outing in succession in which he has out-qualified Massa – Raikkonen admitted that whilst his turnaround has come too late to save his hopes of defending his hard-fought crown, it has come just in time for him to launch his preparations to regain the trophy next season.
“Finally, things seemed to go right for me in qualifying,” stated the Finn, who yesterday turned 29 and is tomorrow bidding to record his first grand prix victory since Barcelona all the way back in April. “It's too late for the title, but we definitely learnt a lesson which will be useful for next year.
“All weekend we've struggled to find the right settings on the car, but then all the work we put in finally came good in Q3, when the car was pretty good. Certainly, even putting aside what the choices have been in terms of fuel loads, today it would have been difficult to beat the McLaren, but I am happy with the overall result for the team.
“We can count as usual on being more competitive in the race than in qualifying, so we can look to tomorrow with confidence, as we try to get the best possible result for both championships. The weather could be very changeable, so we have to be ready to deal with every eventuality.”
“A very tough qualifying,” concurred the Scuderia's
technical director Luca Baldisserri, “up against a very strong rival. I would say the main problem we have at this track is the inconsistency of our car performance.
“We worked hard to get around it, but so far we have not managed to resolve the problem completely. We must try and do that for tomorrow's race, but we can take heart from the fact that, usually, over a long run we have always gone better than in qualifying.”
Raikkonen was certainly far more encouraged at the end of the session than was his fellow Finn, McLaren-Mercedes' Heikki Kovalainen, with whom he traded fastest times in both Q2 and Q3.