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Raikkonen: qualifying improvement key to title hopes 06 Aug 2008

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN), Ferrari, Ferrari F2008, Hungarian Grand Prix 2008, Hungaroring, Sunday, 3 August © Martin Trenkler / Reporter Images Kimi Raikkonen (FIN), Ferrari, Ferrari F2008, Hungarian Grand Prix 2008, Hungaroring, Sunday, 3 August © Martin Trenkler / Reporter Images Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R28 leads Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2008.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 3 August 2008 (L to R) Heikki Kovalainen (FIN), McLaren, Kimi Raikkonen (FIN), Ferrari, Hungarian Grand Prix 2008, Hungaroring, Sunday, 3 August © Martin Trenkler / Reporter Images

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen believes he must solve his recent qualifying troubles if he is to have any chance of retaining his Formula One drivers’ crown. Raikkonen has been sixth on the grid at the last two rounds, effectively preventing him from fighting for victory at either race.

“You can't pretend to win the title if you're always starting from the sixth position,” said the Finn, who spent much of Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix stuck behind Fernando Alonso’s slower Renault. “You can even drive one second faster per lap than the one ahead of you, but if you start from behind you can't use the pace you've got.”

Raikkonen admitted he struggled with setting up his car both in Hungary and at the previous German Grand Prix. His aim now is to find a solution ahead of the forthcoming European round, though with no testing over the summer break that could prove difficult.

“I don't want to deny that the last races didn't go as I wanted,” he said. “Every time something strange happened and we didn't manage to find the best possible set up for the car. We tried to find a good compromise, but it didn't help. We've got to solve that problem now for the upcoming race at Valencia.”

The good news for Raikkonen is that Ferrari’s race pace was much improved in Budapest - he set the fastest lap - and, due to the misfortune of his two main title rivals, team mate Felipe Massa and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, he actually improved his position in the standings. He moved up to second place, cutting his deficit to Hamilton to just five points.

“Whenever you're able to narrow the gap to the leader it's very important,” he added. “I gained more points than any other of my direct competitors, which is pretty positive as well before this short break. The situation in the championship is not too bad: obviously one can always improve and this is exactly what we want to do.”

Raikkonen will be spending some relaxation time in his native Finland over the coming weeks before returning to the track for the inaugural European Grand Prix in Valencia on August 22-24.