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Kimi Raikkonen on coming so close to glory 13 Oct 2003

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4/17D 
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka , Japan, 12 October 2003

McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen started the Japanese Grand Prix weekend with an outside chance of the 2003 drivers' title. After crashing in practice on Saturday he was forced to use his team mate's car and could qualify only eighth as the drizzle began fall on Suzuka.

On Sunday he drove a superb race to finish second behind the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello. However, a two-stop strategy and the set-up of his car were not ideal and the Finn was ultimately powerless to prevent Michael Schumacher, who finished eighth, clinching his sixth world crown.

Raikkonen thus ended the season just two points behind the illustrious German in the drivers' standings. After the race he shared his feelings on coming so agonisingly close to being the sport's youngest ever world champion.

Q: Kimi, you were almost there. What impact do you think that shunt on Saturday had on your weekend?
No, of course it didn`t help us but it`s past now and thanks to David for letting me use his car. I tried to get it back in good shape but I think we were a bit unlucky with qualifying yesterday. The last five guys or whatever it was got a little bit of rain and it didn`t help us. But, you know, we got second place again. It`s not very nice to finish second almost every time but we were just not quick enough to win the title this year. But at least we didn`t lose because of bad driving.

Q: Kimi, you did as much as you could. The car, especially in comparison with David`s towards the end, didn`t seem to be at its best today.
No. We have been struggling with set-up a little bit this weekend. We just didn`t get it right. The first set of tyres was pretty much okay but then on the second I was struggling quite a lot with the grip. It wasn`t like just understeering or oversteering it was everything. It was quite hard, I was pushing as hard as I could but I was just not very quick.

Q: Earlier on you were right up behind Cristiano da Matta. Were you much quicker than him?
Yeah, I think so, like a second, but they were quite quick in a straight line and I was not getting very good traction out of the last chicane. I always got very close but not quite close enough to try overtaking him into turn one and it cost me quite a lot of time but that is racing and next time we try to get past.

Q: Second in the world championship was not what you were hoping because everyone aims for first. But what are your feelings after this season?
I think it has been a good season for us and for me. Okay we really had big expectations before the start of the season and I think we have done very well. We have been quite quick and the car has been much better, much more reliable than last year and we have improved a lot. Thanks to the team, they have worked very hard all season, and to David, to everyone. But this year maybe we were consistent but just not up there on the speed and hopefully we can catch up for next year. I think if we can improve as much as we did over the last winter we should be in a good position to fight for all the wins and to have a good chance to win both titles.

Q: Kimi, did the pit-stop strategy affect your car`s performance?
I think we had a good strategy but it is hard to say really whether it would have been quicker with three stops than two stops, but I think overall we would not have been as quick as Rubens and it wouldn`t have helped much.

Q: Kimi, did you think you were going to be world champion at any moment in the race?
I guess there was always a chance until we went over the line to finish the race and there have been many times when people have retired on the last lap. We were pushing until then and hoping for the best and you never know. This time it wasn`t enough but we try it again next year.

See also: Schumacher takes record sixth title at Suzuka