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Raikkonen focused on resuscitating title challenge 05 Sep 2008

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 4 September 2008 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 4 September 2008 Race winner Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 16 September 2007

Can Kimi Raikkonen match the great Jim Clark and make it four wins in a row at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend?

Being able to do so may prove to be the key to the world champion’s chances of retaining his crown in the face of the recent strong opposition from McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa who have each won four times this season and are ahead of him on points.

Raikkonen won here for McLaren in 2004 and ’05, and his victory for Ferrari last year was a crucial component in his ultimate title success. The wide open nature of Spa makes it slightly less important to qualify really well, but the Finn says that both he and Ferrari have been working very hard, especially at the recent Monza test, to get around the ongoing problem he has been having of generating sufficient heat in the Bridgestone tyres to get the best out of them during qualifying laps.

Raikkonen, whose last victory was in Spain and who has since been continually eclipsed by Massa, apart from at Magny-Cours and Silverstone, said: “Spa has been a good place, so I hope for this year also that will be the case.

“Definitely the season hasn’t been what we wanted, there has been a problem. It is not the first time, and it is not the end of the life, so we try to fix it. Hopefully we have found something and we get back where we should be. But sometimes things go wrong, Hopefully we can have a stronger race.”

Expanding a little on that theme, he added, in reference to the Monza test: “We tried many things, and I was pretty happy with car, but you never know. We have had a good test before and then different conditions at the next race and can’t get back to where it was. But we had a good feeling from the Monza test, and we will see now.

“The team feel that the qualifying performance should be better after Monza. Obviously if you are stuck behind other cars because you don’t qualify well it is pretty much over, so qualifying in front can help big time. We have tried to improve all areas.”

The other crucial factor for Ferrari is engine reliability, following the blow-up that cost Massa the win in Hungary and Raikkonen a likely third in Valencia.

“We are confident that we know what was the problem,” the champion said yesterday. “It was more or less the same as Felipe’s engine the race before. So far in testing and on the bench things have been okay, so we are pretty sure we have fixed the problem and it should be fine.”

Over the years, Raikkonen has demonstrated here that he doesn’t really mind what weather conditions prevail, but he added: “If it is dry or raining all the time, it is much easier for everybody. When it gets between those two, more luck is involved. But anything is good for me.”

David Tremayne