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Kimi Raikkonen Q&A: Pressure not affecting Ferrari form

09 Jun 2016

They may not have won a race this year, and they may currently be feeling more pressure from Red Bull than they’re applying to Mercedes, but - in the opinion of Kimi Raikkonen - Ferrari are in a much better position this season than last. In an exclusive interview, the Finn explains why he believes victories are within sight, discusses the heavy weight of expectation that comes with driving for the Prancing Horse, and holds forth on the thorny subject of his future in F1…

Q: Kimi, it is a bit of an irony that after six races the ‘fill-in’ is doing better than the actual star of the team. What do you make out of that?

Kimi Raikkonen: Ha, I don’t feel like a ‘fill-in’! We are a team and we try to do well! Period. Yes, it is what it is right now but it is still early season and we definitely hope to be higher up soon as a team…

Q: …but do you feel like the darling of Ferrari right now?

KR: No! (laughs)

Q: Very recently Seb (Vettel) said that if he could choose just one team mate it would be you. But Seb is also somebody who hates to be second best so how does he cope with that exactly?

KR: Nothing has changed. We both work for the team and do our maximum - and that is a benefit for both of us - and for the team. The main issue for both of us right now is to put Ferrari to where it belongs. Yes, we haven’t had an ideal season - both of us - so far, but hopefully we can be right up there in the future with both cars - and then let’s see where we end up.

Q: Ferrari started with a mission this season - to challenge for the title. But recently something always seems to happen in races that interrupts that mission. What is the main reason from Kimi Raikkonen’s point of view?

KR: That sounds as if we would not be in a fight. But let me tell you: we are in a fight and will fight until the last moment and try to win the championship. So far there hasn’t been an ideal start of the year - we’ve both had DNFs and those circumstances don’t help in the standings - but be sure that we won’t give up. We are working like hell - and we will get the results!

Q: How much have reliability issues played a part? The new Ferrari engine doesn’t seem to be the real killer…

KR: We had small issues that had cost us quite a few points - but no major troubles. The team has been very quick to fix these things and now we are happy on that side.

Q: This year Ferrari wanted to close the gap to Mercedes, but currently they are the ones being threatened - by Red Bull Racing for P2 in the pecking order. Are Ferrari in a defensive situation?

KR: As I just said, we haven’t had the most straightforward start of the year, but I am sure that we have the speed and I know that we are able to fight for wins. And we want to win races! We don’t care who we are fighting with. Ideally it has to be a Ferrari finishing first and second!

Q: You speak so strongly about Ferrari winning races so it must be pretty disappointing that Ferrari has not won a single race so far in 2016…

KR: We want to win races - of course - and if people say that now we are worse than last year I reply: we are not! The package is good, the team is working better together and we’ve made a big step forward from last year. That is fact - whatever people try to say! That is all nonsense. What is probably underestimated is that the races got mixed up from last season that the races we’ve been usually strong have been moved to a later point in the season and those were we have expected to have more of a hard time have been moved to the beginning of the year. So when it looks like we were doing better last season it does not show the whole picture. Of course, for those that don’t know all the circumstances and only look at the plain numbers it might appear that way. But that doesn’t affect us at all. That is basically nonsense that the media make up. We know that we’ve improved but probably not to the level that we would have wanted. But we are working on that!

Q: What is that level that you call upon?

KR: We want to be where Ferrari should be: at one and two! Be the team that everybody wants to beat.

Q: Ferrari’s president Sergio Marchionne is putting a lot of pressure on the team. Is that helpful?

A team like Ferrari traditionally has more pressure than any other team - that will never change. So everybody expects us to do well - that’s in the name. And we put ourselves under pressure, as nobody in the team is happy if we don’t win. So in the end it does not matter if he (Marchionne) gives us pressure or somebody else. We know what we want to do and want to achieve.

Q: As Finns, you and Valtteri Bottas can rely on the principle of Sisu (loosely translated as a kind of stoic determination) - but lately Nico Rosberg has also claimed that this Sisu is also propelling his career…

KR: …wait a minute! Not me! I have never said that Sisu has anything to do with me! For me Sisu is just a Finnish candy - and whatever people attribute to that mental side of Sisu I don’t buy it!

Q: No driver triggers as many rumours about his F1 future as you - and it’s been the same now for years. Isn’t that tiresome for you?

KR: Not anymore as this has been going on since the second year I was in Formula One! All this speculation doesn’t touch me. I simply don’t care about it - it’s not my business! I do not comment on rumours.

Q: …but haven’t you been surprised that suddenly Nico Rosberg has appeared in the picture, with rumours that he might change Mercedes silver for Ferrari red?

KR: As I said: I am not interested in commenting on any crude stories. I know what is going on - and that is enough for me. I know that will not stop any rumours - but I also know that the future will prove many people wrong! But: my lips are sealed! (laughs)

Q: But Formula One is still what you want to do?

KR: I would not be here otherwise. If you don’t enjoy what you do the normal impulse would be to stop it - no?

Q: Is there a feeling of still having unfinished business in F1? You are the last Ferrari world champion so definitely no unfinished business here…

KR: Ha, I still to have business here! As I just said: I would not be here if not. If I would not enjoy racing or being part of Ferrari I would not be here. Our aim is to put Ferrari back where it belongs - and that’s not unfinished business - that’s a mission! And racing is still my passion - even though F1 has changed a lot since I have started. Every year it seems to get more and more silly - but I keep out of that and don’t get involved!

Q: So let’s find out what has to happen for Kimi Raikkonen to call 2016 a good season

KR: If we win, we will be happy. If not then the job was not good enough. We want to win the championship and not single races - that’s why we are here - not just for being here. Anything is not what we want.

Q: If you could pick one race from all the races to come that you would love to win, which one would you pick?

KR: It doesn’t matter. The best (answer) is as many as we can. And in the end all race wins give you the same amount of points - so I am passionless about a particular race. But best we could start this Sunday!