Kimi Raikkonen shrugged off Lotus's pre-season testing problems on Monday and said his new car felt better than last year's going into Formula One's Australian season-opener. The Finn, the 2007 world champion with Ferrari and third overall last year in his comeback season, was hopeful that Lotus could be strong right from the start despite a lack of laps in testing.
"We had some problems in testing but we still completed quite a few laps. Of course, you always want more laps, but it is what it is," Raikkonen said in a team preview for Sunday's race in Melbourne. "I'm not really concerned about reliability or anything like that as it was the same problem which caused us the biggest problems in testing and we're on top of that now.
"You can never be 100 per cent certain of course, but if you look at last season we had problems before the start of the year then we were pretty good when we got to the races." Statistics on the official formula1.com website showed Lotus were 11th out of the 11 teams in terms of test distance completed with 3,527 km compared to Sauber's 5,307 km.
Raikkonen, who was unwell for one of the days in Barcelona, was 20th in the individual list of test km covered - with only late signings Jules Bianchi and Adrian Sutil doing less among the race drivers. The Finn was hampered by telemetry issues on his first day in Barcelona, which hosted the second and third tests after the first in Jerez, and was then sidelined for much of the second day by a gearbox problem.
Raikkonen won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November last year and ended the season with seven podium finishes. He won at Melbourne's Albert Park in 2007 and scored the first points of his career there in 2001. "Hopefully we're fast enough. I don't think there's any area where it feels worse than last year's car; so far everything is better," he said of the new E21.
"We had good speed last year, but not enough to win the championship. That means we need more speed this year. If we can get just a little more from the car and keep our consistency, with some better results at the beginning of the year, then we should have a much better chance."
While champions Red Bull and Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes have been making most of the headlines, Lotus have been burnishing their title credentials. "They are a good team with quality people and Kimi, now he is back up to full speed, scored points at pretty much every race last year. He could well be a factor this year," Red Bull principal Christian Horner told reporters last week.