Kimi Raikkonen has admitted that it was unlikely that either he or Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa could have beaten Lewis Hamilton's McLaren in the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday, but insists that he could still take positives from the two weekends at Fuji and Shanghai.
Two podium visits were an improvement on recent results for the Finn, who at least tried to run with Hamilton in China, but he added to the general consensus at Maranello that believed McLaren had stolen a march on Ferrari in the penultimate round. Hamilton was a comfortable leader for much of the race, before backing off in the closing stages to protect his engine for Interlagos and still winning by nigh on 15 seconds.
"We had the possibility to win, but our race rhythm in China was not high enough to beat our competitors," Raikkonen conceded, "The car didn't run too badly, but it wasn't at 100 per cent either.
"We had the same fuel load on board, so a mistake by Hamilton could have allowed us to win, but he was faster than us on the first laps immediately after the start and after the pit-stops and, while we could have made up ground on the long run, it was too late."
The reigning world champion may have had to accept that he has just days left on the throne after third place in Japan left him short of being able to retain his crown, but that result and a similar one seven days later in China - albeit after handing second to Massa - confirmed that the form missing for much of the season had returned, in qualifying especially.
"For once, I came back home from a race with a positive feeling," he agreed, "The best part of the two races in China and Japan is that I was competitive again in qualifying. The car behaves the way I like it and that's why I managed to start from the front row at Fuji and in Shanghai. Finally, we could pick the fruits of the team's hard work on the car over the last few months and, when you do the right thing, you immediately see the results.
"I really like sushi and Chinese food, but more than anything else I was glad to be back on the podium. I needed a good final stage of the season, and the positive end gives me the possibility of a good winter and a good starting point for the next season."
Before 'next season', however, Raikkonen has one more race to complete and one where his new-found qualifying form could come in very useful indeed. Team-mate Massa heads to Interlagos trailing Hamilton by seven points in the drivers' championship, while Ferrari holds an eleven-point advantage over McLaren in the constructors' championship.
While Hamilton only needs fifth place to clinch the crown, Raikkonen admits - contrary to recent quotes attributed to him - that he will be doing his bit to try and help Ferrari land both crowns.