New Delhi: It is hard to believe Kimi Raikkonen stayed away from Formula One for two years. The 'Iceman' is one of the title contenders this season with six podiums already. Now as the F1 gears up for the Asian circuit, the Lotus driver is eagerly looking forward to his first race in India.
Raikkonen, who returned to F1 after a stint in the World Rally Championship, found the track at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) interesting on the simulator.
"It is great to be racing there and the track looks interesting. I always liked to visit new countries and India is an exciting place. As far as performance goes, we won't know how well the car will perform until we get there," Raikkonen told IANS in an e-mail interview ahead of the second Indian Grand Prix (Oct 26-28).
Raikkonen and Frenchman Romain Grosjean are part of a brand new Lotus line-up for the 2012 season. The duo might not have the first-hand experience of the BIC track, but the 32-year-old Finn has heard a lot of good things about it from the team's reserve Jerome d' Ambrosio, who drove for Virgin last year.
"Romain, too, hasn't raced at BIC, but going by what I heard from Jerome it looks like an exciting track. But I would still say, it is better to get out on the track and experience it for yourself," said Raikkonen as he prepares for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka over the weekend.
It is sheer consistency that has taken him to third place in the drivers' standings and that, too, without a win.
Asked whether he expected three second places and as many third place finishes in the 14 rounds so far, Raikkonen's candid response is: "I have always been pretty consistent and even the car is okay."
His tone is the same when you talk to him about his return to F1.
"F1 hasn't changed much, it feels like I wasn't away at all. There were a few familiar faces in different shirts but that's what happens every year anyway. Though I like many forms of motor sports such as WRC, NASCAR, motocross, snowmobile racing, my focus is on F1."
Apart from India, South Korea (Oct 12-14) is another new venue for Raikkonen. The 2007 World Champion welcomes the expansion of F1 calendar, calling it good for the sport.
"Korea is another one where I will be driving for the first time. The circuit looks good and it is a new port of call for F1. It is good for the sponsors. I am looking forward to driving on the new track," he concluded.
(Bharat Sharma can be contacted at email@example.com)