Kimi Raikkonen feels ready for F1 return
Updated: December 21, 2011, 12:21
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PARIS(AP) Kimi Raikkonen expects to pick up right where he left off when he returns to Formula One, despite two seasons away from the sport.
The Finnish driver, who won the 2007 championship title when driving for Ferrari but quit in 2009 and switched to rally, will make a comeback next season with the Lotus Renault team.
"I can't wait to get behind the wheel,'' Raikkonen said Wednesday.
The 32-year-old Raikkonen is confident that he will make a smooth transition back to competing on F1 circuits after his time driving on roads.
"I am more motivated than ever and I don't think I've lost any speed,'' Raikkonen said on the team's website.
"Before my two years of rallying I had nine seasons, 157 races and 18 wins in Formula 1,'' he added. "When I went to rallying and when I tried NASCAR, there were many new things to learn, but with Formula One I feel like I'm coming home.''
The 32-year-old Raikkonen thinks his biggest challenge will be getting to grips with the Pirelli tires.
Pirelli only came back into F1 last season after a 20-year absence to replace Japanese manufacturer Bridgestone.
"Getting on top of the tires will be the hardest thing, of course, but I'm not really worried,'' he said.
Sebastian Vettel dominated F1 in his Red Bull this season to clinch his second straight title, but Raikkonen's return means the German driver has another former world champion to contend with.
While the Red Bulls have had a clear edge on the competition over the last two years, Raikkonen hopes the playing field will be leveled a bit by rule changes that will force teams to modify their cars.
"Although the technical regulations don't seem to change much, they apply to a lot of areas and quite a few elements will have to be redesigned,'' the Finn said. "As a result, the cars will be significantly different next year. The order could be shaken up, which will make things very interesting.''
Raikkonen admits he is counting down the days.
"We don't test the new car until February so it's a long wait. However, I should be able to jump into a two-year-old F1 car in January,'' he said. "I am doing a lot of training. The most important area for me is to get my neck strong enough again, especially as it will be put through its paces in testing.''
Raikkonen suffered a sore wrist falling off a snowmobile during a race earlier this month.
He laughed off the incident and thinks it could prove to be a good omen.
"I won a snowmobile race right before the start of the 2007 season and that year didn't go badly for me so who knows?'' he said. "I was surprised by how much attention there was over me falling off a snowmobile ... It was probably the smallest and slowest crash I've ever had.''