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Exclusive Q&A with Kimi Raikkonen 16 Oct 2006

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4/21 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day Suzuka, Japan, 7 October 2006

The Finn reflects on McLaren - and looks ahead to Ferrari

This weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix will see several drivers in their last race for their current teams. Amid the cockpit swapping expected in the coming weeks, the most intriguing move will be Kimi Raikkonen's switch to Ferrari. Watching him walk in Michael Schumacher's shoes and having to work in an environment purpose built for the German will be fascinating. And the key question will be, can each side live up to the expectations of the other?

Q: It’s looking as though you will finish the season fifth in the drivers’ championship, surely a long way short of what you were hoping for…
Kimi Raikkonen:
Obviously its been very disappointing season, and I fully expected to challenge for the championship at the beginning of the year. However, after a few races it was clear the package was not competitive enough. My goals changed in the middle of the year to try to win as many races as possible.

Q: At the last round in Japan you failed to make the top ten in qualifying - proof perhaps that McLaren-Mercedes have gone backwards rather than forwards this season. What are the reasons? Human elements or purely technical?
KR:
One hundred percent technical. It’s been clear to see over the course of the season the package was not competitive at certain kinds of circuits, similar to Japan. However, it was still a surprise not to make the top ten in qualifying. The race pace was more competitive.

Q: You have been with McLaren for several years. We all know Formula One racing is a cyclical sport, but after you and the team finished second in both championships in 2005, why do you think they are now on a downward swing again?
KR:
Like I said before, the whole team expected to carry our strong performance from ‘05 into this year.

Q: This weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix will be your last race with McLaren. What are your feelings?
KR:
It’s the end of a chapter in my F1 career. I will miss a lot of friends in the team that I have made over the past five years.

Q: And obviously you can look back at many great moments with the team. Which of them has a special place in your memory?
KR:
My race wins stand out. Malaysia being my first, then Monaco, Spa - 2004 and 2005 - and Japan last year, being the most memorable wins.

Q: The media always liked to believe that there was some sort of pre-contract arrangement between you and Ferrari, but in reality - as Jean Todt recently revealed - there was a full, signed contract all along. Who knew about it and when was it signed?
KR:
There was never a pre-contract. I cannot go into details as to when the deal was signed. My management and, of course, my family were aware.

Q: Ferrari has and will always be a special team. What does it mean for you to drive for them, emotionally?
KR:
I am really happy to be joining Ferrari. They are the most successful team since the beginning of Formula One and the team to beat the past seven or eight years, so to be driving for them is a dream come true.

Q: It looks as though you will have the best package on the grid next season, given that Ferrari is the only top team not having to switch tyres. Allowing for your acclimatisation to the team, what are your expectations for 2007?
KR:
I joined Ferrari because I believe they will give me the best opportunity of being a world champion. Hopefully that we be in 2007!

Q: When will you first get into your new work place - all in red?
KR:
I will test for the team at the beginning of next year. I can wait!

Q: And what about your Italian language skills?
KR:
Never been my strong point. I never quite managed to master German!