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Pre-India analysis - pragmatic Raikkonen assesses title chances 26 Oct 2012

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Preparations, Thursday, 25 October 2012 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E20.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Practice, Friday, 26 October 2012 Max Chilton (GBR) Marussia Third Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Suzuka, Japan, Saturday, 6 October 2012 Max Chilton (GBR) Marussia F1 Team MR01.
Formula One Young Drivers Test, Day One, Silverstone, England, 12 July 2012

Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen admitted on Thursday that the likelihood of a late challenge for the world championship is slim, effectively leaving it as a two-horse race between Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel on 215 points and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso on 209.

Raikkonen has 167 and there are 100 left to win in the last four events, but though the Lotus looked a likely winner earlier in the season he said he doubts it will achieve the sudden upswing in performance that he needs, or see any chance of repeating his dramatic performance in 2007 which saw him come from behind to snatch the title from battling McLaren team mates Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

“I'm happy,” he reported. “If you had told me before the season that I would be in this position with this many points and stuff like that I would have taken it, but of course when you do some good races you always want more and more and then you're disappointed if you don't.

“Of course, we've had a chance. It's different to 2007. We had a car that you knew could win all the races and right now we are not the fastest car, so we need more help to really win it but we will keep trying and hopefully we can achieve it. We will try until there's no chance but it's a bit of a different situation. But if we can improve the car in the next three races, you never know, so...”

Asked when he realised the Lotus E20 had lost the edge of competitiveness that it had earlier in the season, he added: “I think in Spa we had some signs but then we have seen this year that one race you can be very strong and the next not so good, it's been up and down between the teams. For some reason, after the summer break, some of the teams have been much more consistent. I think we still have a good car. We improved it in the last race again but we are not at the level that we maybe were compared to others at the beginning of the season.”

On Thursday there was good news for Briton Max Chilton, who will drive Charles Pic’s Marussia on Friday morning in Abu Dhabi next week.

“I feel very proud to be entrusted with this opportunity,” said the 21 year-old, who won two GP2 feature races this season. “As part of the Young Driver Programme this year I got to know the team very well, but over the last two race weekends, as reserve driver, I feel like I have a proper role and have learned so much about the Formula 1 environment in a very short space of time. This is the next step in the process of proving my potential and another important notch for me personally in terms of my ultimate goals.

“The 90 minutes of FP1 will fly by so quickly that it’s a real bonus to be testing the car at a circuit I know well. It means I can get up to speed straight away and focus on delivering some proper set-up and aero evaluation data to help during the rest of the weekend.”

Previously Chilton has taken part in the Marussia F1 Team’s Young Driver Test in July at Silverstone, where he drove the MR01 for two consecutive half days. Since Japan he has been an integral part of the team’s track walks, engineering meetings and driver debriefs to ensure that he’s sufficiently well prepared to substitute for one of the race drivers.

“We are delighted to provide this opportunity to Max in Abu Dhabi as it serves two important functions for us,” team principal John Booth said. “First of all, in the position of Reserve Driver, Max needs to be as prepared as possible should he be required to substitute for either race driver in the remaining races of the 2012 season.

“Secondly, as part of our ongoing assessment of the next generation of racing talent, we are interested to see how Max has progressed since we first put him in the car at our Young Driver Test at Silverstone in the summer. Since that time, Max has impressed a great deal in the GP2 series, achieving two race wins in the latter part of the season, so at the same time as ensuring his preparedness for the Reserve Driver role, we are looking forward to comparing his driving development with his growing maturity outside of the car.”

David Tremayne

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