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Exclusive Raikkonen Q&A: We need to take every chance 12 Sep 2008

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 5 September 2008 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2008.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 5 September 2008 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN), Ferrari, Ferrari F2008, Canadian Grand Prix 2008, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada, Friday, 6 June 2008. © Martin Trenkler / Reporter Images Race retiree Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari walks back to the pits.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 7 September 2008 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2008 on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 3 August 2008

Never underestimate a sly old fox. When most had discounted him as a title contender, last year Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen gave his competitors a dressing down in the season’s final races and walked away with the crown. With a 19-point deficit on championship leader Lewis Hamilton, Raikkonen seems to be facing a similar situation in 2008, though now with team mate Felipe Massa also among his rivals. Ferrari haven’t yet picked a favourite, but the Finn knows he must perform well in Monza if he is to stay in the picture…

Q: Kimi, how is life as the reigning world champion? You have been in the public eye for quite a while but the title must have increased attention on you? How do you deal with that?
Kimi Raikkonen:
It’s true, it increased but it has not changed any normal living. I wouldn’t say that anything is different for myself - and the racing is still the same. But yes, it’s nice to be the champ. I always wanted to achieve that - and it’s something that can never be taken away from me. This is the really great part!

Q: Driving for Ferrari is every aspiring young race driver’s dream. Is it a dream come true for you?
KR:
It was a dream at one point for me as I always wanted to come into Formula One and be with a top team. So far I’ve been lucky to be in two top teams. I enjoy being here and I had a fantastic time last year - when I joined last season, I had more fun than I have had in a long time. It is a great place to be, working with all these 120 percent-committed people. And red suits me, I would say.

Q: This season must be like a deja vu for you. As in 2007, you are playing catch up in the title race. But what is different to last season?
KR:
Well, so far it has not been the easiest year. There have been a lot of difficulties lately, but that is part of racing sometimes. We have had some issues in getting the car exactly how we want it. We had a strong first part of the season and then we faced some problems. It has been difficult, yes, and hopefully we can turn it around a bit and get some good results. It is not too late yet - but it is getting difficult with every race. Let’s wait and see how it develops.

Q: Last year it was you against Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. This year the title match involves your team mate. That obviously doesn’t make things easier…
KR:
Of course not. But again, that is part of racing. At the end of the day, it does not matter who it is - you need to beat all of them. So it doesn’t make any difference if it is your team mate or somebody else. You need to be in front of everybody if you want to win.

Q: But teams can concentrate their efforts on one driver…
KR:
We have never had that situation. Of course last year when it was clear that the other car had no chance - points-wise - then it was a different story. But as long as we have every chance, we need to take them. Until that ‘no-chance situation’ comes, it is up to us to move forward - or to come back in my case.

Q: If your chances decrease, will you play the role of supporter to Felipe?
KR:
When I clearly have no chance at all then it is a different story. But then that is not up to me. First Felipe needs to be in a position where he can try to win, and then if there is something that the team will benefit from, then it might be yes. But until that situation comes, I am not interested in talking about it.

Q: The championship is still wide open with five races to go and 50 points up for grabs. At what point would you accept that your chances to win the title have evaporated?
KR:
As I just said, when it is clear that I will not be able to make enough points.

Q: In Spa you drove for all or nothing. In hindsight, would you do it all over again or settle for securing some points?
KR:
I wanted to win - or nothing. Unfortunately I got nothing that time, but at least I had more fun that at many races before. And what are sure points? I needed more points than the others, so realistically I was in a position where I didn’t have much to lose, so I went for it. Afterwards it is always easy to say that by playing safe I would have probably ended in second place, but that is not the right way to win. I want to win it on the circuit rather than after the race. What happened in Spa happened. Again, that’s racing.

Q: The F2008 seems to be a very different machine to last year’s car. Are you still struggling to adapt your driving style to its characteristics?
KR:
I would not say that the car is so different to last year. It is more about getting the tyres the way you want them to behave - that is the biggest issue. But then again, they are the same for everybody. When you compare the tyres from a couple of years ago, what we have now is completely different. So hopefully next year when we get the slick tyres it will be more as it used to be - meaning that it will be more fun to drive. And it’s not about wanting the old car back, it is more about getting the package right for us. And the last races indicated that we are on the right track.

Q: Monza is Ferrari’s backyard. It’s almost an obligation to succeed here. You have never won this race. How much ambition is there to walk away with the trophy on Sunday?
KR:
I have never made it here although the chances were there. It would of course be great to win here - especially as it is the home Grand Prix for Ferrari. And hopefully we are in a position on Sunday to fight for it - that would be great.

Q: What about you and Felipe? Is there a rivalry?
KR:
It is like at any other race. I try to win, he tries to win. This is normal procedure in a top team.

Q: You wouldn’t die for it, but what would a race win here be worth to you?
KR:
Of course not. But be assured that I really want to win here and it would make me more happy than in a long time to be on the top spot of the podium on Sunday.

Q: Were you satisfied with the test here two weeks ago. Did it give you any indication of what your performance level will be?
KR:
The test was not bad. It was definitely better than where we were one year ago, so we should have quite a good chance of a good result, but it depends on many things. If we get everything running well and the weather stays nice, that would improve our chances.

Q: All that sounds as if you are still enjoying racing…
KR:
I would not be here otherwise!