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Raikkonen at a loss to explain ‘dark period’ 02 Oct 2008

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Singapore Grand Prix, Preparations, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Thursday, 25 September 2008 The car of Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2008  is recovered after he crashed out of the race
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Singapore, Sunday, 28 September 2008 Race retiree Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari crosses the track.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 7 September 2008

For a world champion defending his title, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen has shouldered more than his fair share of lacklustre results this year. And after leaving a Grand Prix empty handed for the fourth time in succession in Singapore, Raikkonen lies a distant fourth in the championship standings, 27 points off the lead.

“Obviously I'm really sad about this situation,” said the Finn. “I can't explain this dark period and there's nothing I can do to change what happened. It's difficult to find the right words: racing at night or during the day, this is definitely not my year.”

Raikkonen crashed out of the Marina Bay night race three laps from the finish, battling Toyota’s Timo Glock for fourth. It wouldn’t have been a great result given his third-place grid slot, but it would have been his best since August, a third place in Hungary. His Belgian race in September ended in a similar circumstance, after he hit a wall while tussling with McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton for the lead.

But as well as the well-publicized driver errors, Raikkonen has had to contend with a car that struggles in wet conditions and the occasional chink in Ferrari’s normally bulletproof reliability. At Monza, Raikkonen struggled to ninth after rain hit the Italian race, while at both the season opener in Melbourne and the inaugural Valencia race his engine failed.

In qualifying too, the 28 year-old has struggled to match the performances of his 2007 championship-winning campaign. That season he started just one race from outside the top five. This year he has failed to make the front two rows on four occasions and has scored just two pole positions. And as for race victories, he’s not tasted one since April’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Nevertheless, there is light at the end of the tunnel. His pace is certainly not in question - he has already clocked 10 fastest race laps in 2008, equalling Michael Schumacher's season record. He also has no worries about his future, after Ferrari confirmed him until the end of 2010 last month, and the team have been hard at work finding solutions to both his qualifying issues and the car’s problems in the wet.

“I'm very sorry for the team, because they've done some great work to improve the F2008,” he added. “It seems as if the more we try to improve the situation the less we get in the end. But we know that we've got what it takes to fight for victory. Let's hope that I'll finally have a smooth weekend, from Friday to Sunday evening.”

Still, with just three races left, and a total of 30 world championship points up for grabs, it will be almost impossible for the Finn to retain his crown. Perhaps Raikkonen shouldn’t feel too downcast, though. Historically speaking, it’s a feat that is more difficult to achieve than it looks.

Of Formula One’s 29 world champions, only five have successfully defended their maiden crowns. And Raikkonen can seek solace from the fact he’s not faring as poorly as Jody Scheckter, the last man to win his first championship with Ferrari. From 51 points and the title in 1979, 12 months on Scheckter had slumped to 19th in the standings on just two points.