Though there were fleeting occasions on which he threatened to take the fight to Lewis Hamilton during the Chinese Grand Prix today, soon-to-be deposed Formula 1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen has admitted that ultimately Ferrari just didn't have the pace to fight McLaren-Mercedes for victory.
Raikkonen has returned to something more like his old form of late, both out-qualifying and out-racing team-mate Felipe Massa for the past two grands prix in succession, and from the front row of the grid in Shanghai the Finn endeavoured to keep race-long leader Hamilton in his sights. Whilst he was able to do that, closing the gap would prove to be a challenge too far up against a car that, as team principal Stefano Domenicali acknowledged, 'proved to be superior in terms of performance' weekend-long.
What's more, given the championship situation, Raikkonen was forced to cede his runner-up position to Massa less than ten laps from the chequered flag, seeing him ultimately cross the finish line third in the shadow of the sister F2008 as both drivers found themselves 'out-classed' by the world championship leader [see separate story – click here
“Today I had a good car,” the recently-turned 29-year-old reflected, “but it was not quick enough to beat our main competitor. At the start and after every tyre change, Hamilton managed to pull away. When it got near to the pit-stops I was able to go a bit quicker, but it was always too late. On top of that, three times I came up behind backmarkers who cost me valuable time.
“Nevertheless, we secured a very good result for the constructors' classification. Now we go to Brazil where we must try and get a one-two finish, and then we can see where we stand in both championships.
“Felipe passing me? I am part of a team and I am well aware what they expect of me. I am out of the title fight and have to do the maximum because Ferrari can achieve both its objectives. It's as simple as that.”
Indeed, despite having been forced to concede second-best to McLaren in performance terms, Ferrari still pulled out further ground on its chief rival in the battle for constructors' glory thanks to Heikki Kovalainen's retirement in the second of the two Silver Arrows. That means the Scuderia
needs just seven points now at Interlagos to seal the deal and claim what technical director Luca Baldisserri admits is a 'very important' goal.
“Our opponents were better than us today, which we must do something about” the Italian mused. “We suffered from a chronic lack of traction on both types of tyre. We worked on the car all weekend to try and improve the situation, but evidently our efforts were not enough to fight at the highest level.
“Therefore, second and third places represent the maximum we could do in these conditions, although it does allow us to make a step forward towards the constructors' title, which is very important for us.
“Now we must concentrate on analysing our performance at this track and on preparing for the Brazilian Grand Prix, where we will do our utmost to pick up maximum points, as in fact we do at every race.”