Kimi Raikkonen’s two-year contract with Lotus expires at the end of 2013, but the Finn sees no reason why his Formula 1 comeback will end at the same time
Speaking to the press as Lotus launched its new E21 chassis, Raikkonen said he very much enjoyed his return to the F1 fold in 2012, and is hopeful of enjoying the new season every bit as much.
“I’m not really thinking beyond this season at the moment, but I’m sure there will be talk before the end of the year,” he said. “I enjoyed my comeback to Formula 1 last year and there’s no reason to say I shouldn’t enjoy the 2013 season too.”
With big plans afoot for F1 in 2014, Raikkonen sees no reason why the coming season will be his last.
“I know there will be big changes to the cars and regulations for 2014, so who’s to say that won’t be exciting,” he added.
Raikkonen turned his back on the sport when he left Ferrari at the end of 2009. He switched to the World Rally Championship with Citroen, but his performances were inconsistent.
A foray into into the NASCAR Truck Series and a test in Peugeot’s Le Mans contender proved brief diversions before his ultimate return to F1 with Lotus in 2012.
Asked what his thoughts were heading into the new season with Lotus, Raikkonen said: “I’m feeling pretty good.
“Last year was my return to Formula 1 and it went pretty well. This year will be my second with Lotus F1 Team and my eleventh season overall in Formula 1 so I’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect.
“I’m sure it will be an exciting season and I’m sure there’ll be lots to talk about.
“For me, I will continue to do the best I can; let’s see how good our car is, and how good the cars of the opposition are too.”
Raikkonen said he is happy at Lotus, and there was a feeling of continuity and progression that bodes well for the coming season.
“It helps,” he said of having a year’s experience with Lotus behind him.
“It’s not a massive thing which will suddenly mean you start winning all the races, but it’s nice to be at the same team as you understand how they work, and they understand how you work.
“We quickly developed a pretty good way of working together last year and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue this season.”
While Raikkonen was quick to point out that he was no rookie, the 2007 world champion added that being a F1 driver never stops being a learning experience.
“I don’t think you ever stop learning,” he said.
“I don’t think I could say I’m a rookie. We had new tracks last year; that’s always something nice to learn and for me best learnt on the tracks themselves. There will be a new car which we’ll want to develop and get working at its best. There are always changes in the sport; some small, some big.
“Generally everything’s pretty similar, and the feeling of racing on track is pretty familiar.”
Asked what his goals for the coming season were, Raikonnen said: “To do the best job I can. “I’ve not driven the E21 yet so it’s difficult to say what could or could not be possible. We know we had a good car last season, but everyone is working hard to make the best car.
“I will be working with the team to help get the car as strong as we can, then in Melbourne we’ll have our first taste of results. It’s a long season from there. 2012 was a good start; let’s see what we can do in 2013.”
Lotus finished an impressive fourth in in the constructors’ title race last year, and with Lewis Hamilton’s departure from McLaren, there is hope they can go one better in 2013.
Asked whether McLaren are now less formidable without Hamilton, Raikkonen said: “Hopefully, yes.
“We will wait and see in testing, and then go from there. It will be interesting to see what happens. It’s not going to be easy to improve on what we did last year.
“But that’s the aim, to do better, and hopefully we can do it. If you can qualify further up the grid, then it gives you a better chance to win races and makes your life a lot easier on race days.
“It’s the whole package they’ve tried to make faster, and hopefully we’ve managed to do it.”
And is Raikkonen looking forward to working with team-mate Romain Grosjean again?
“We had a pretty good relationship last year and it’s clear he’s fast and motivated,” he said. “On track we were pretty close to each other at times but we didn’t have any issues. It’s good when you have a team-mate who’s fast and works hard. I think we should be fine in 2013.”
And what of those who doubted his ability to make a successful return to the sport?
“I knew I could still perform well in Formula 1 given the right opportunity,” added the always stoic Finn. “It was only other people who had doubts.”