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Exclusive Q&A - Kimi Raikkonen 29 May 2005

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren at the McLaren Steinmetz diamond presentation.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte Carlo, Monaco, 18 May 2005 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4/20 in the pits.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Race Day, Monte Carlo, Monaco, 22 May 2005 Race winner Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Race, Monte Carlo, Monaco, 22 May 2005 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4/20.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, First Qualifying Day, Monte Carlo, Monaco, 21 May 2005 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren talks to his race engineer Mark Slade (GBR) 
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte Carlo, Monaco, 19 May 2005

McLaren’s latest flying Finn is on a high - with two wins in two races he has championship leader Fernando Alonso firmly in his sights. We spoke to Kimi Raikkonen, the man who would be king.

A Formula One career can be a rollercoaster, as Raikkonen knows well. He almost lost out on his 2001 Sauber debut after questions over his deserving a Super License. Still a relative nobody, he was then hired by McLaren to fill the shoes of double world champion Mika Hakkinen. He filled them well, as runner-up to Michael Schumacher in 2003, only for McLaren’s form to desert him last year.

A few months on though and, along with Alonso, he is a hot favourite for the world championship in a stunning resurrection of team and driver. And after that imperious win in Monte Carlo, Raikkonen, often described as monosyllabic, seems anything but…

Q: So how was the Monaco victory - how did it feel to run away with the trophy?
Kimi Raikkonen:
Believe me, it felt mighty good. Winning a race is always special - when you know that you and the team have got it right - but winning Monaco is another dimension. A victory there seems to be bigger, more important and more satisfying because this race track immediately turns on you if you make mistakes, so to win there means that you did a better job than the other 19 guys.

Q: It was your second victory this year, just two weeks after Barcelona. Did you already feel ‘warmed-up’ for another podium?
Barcelona was a bit of a surprise, but there we learned that we are on the winning street again. That the next strike would be Monaco was a just reward for the hardships we had been facing in 2004.

Q: McLaren boss Ron Dennis even went as far as to compare you with six-time Monaco winner Ayrton Senna. How did you feel about that?
I don’t think in such terms. Those were different times with a different type of driver, so any comparison in the end is only a verbal game without any basis.

Q: Recently, many pundits have labelled you the second best driver on the grid after Michael Schumacher. What do you make of such comparisons?
I should probably stop racing if I thought about myself as being second best.

Q: So far, this year’s title looks like being a straight fight between you and Fernando Alonso - do you see anyone else potentially challenging the two of you?
Sure both of us seem the obvious bets. But in reality it is much too early to pick out a definite ‘would be champion’. I think that Ferrari will come back heavy into the race again - it is never clever to underestimate them. Ask me this question after six more races - probably then I will have a more definite guess.

Q: Much was written about potential friction between you and Juan Pablo Montoya as team mates. How are communications between the two of you? And does having a team mate of such obvious ability boost your motivation?
It was always Ron’s policy to have two drivers in the team with the capability to win so it is no big deal for me to have Juan Pablo as team mate. And it surely did not influence my motivation - not for the better and sure not for the worse. It would be very questionable if a team mate would influence the motivation of a driver because it would mean that he is not giving his best all the time.

Q: And how about friendships in the paddock? Are there people you would call friends?
I get along with everybody, but fact is, that my real friends are outside Formula One – normal people with normal jobs. It feels good to dive into the real world once in a while so I am anxious to keep them.

Q: There has been media speculation about a new dream team: you and Fernando racing for Ferrari. Are you also dreaming in this direction?
It is obsolete to speculate about the future. I am happy where I am and concentrating on a successful season. We are living in times of changes in Formula One that nobody can predict how it will be in the next couple of years. Who can say that Formula One will be running with the same teams in five years.