Yeongam: Kimi Raikkonen would rather finish fourth in the Formula One world championship than end up second or third because then he can skip the official prize-giving gala in December.
The Finn, 2007 world champion with Ferrari and now at Lotus, is third in the current standings after 15 of the 20 races but he made it clear on Thursday that first was all that really counted.
"It doesn't matter if I am second or 10th, it makes no difference," Raikkonen told reporters ahead of Sunday's Korean Grand Prix.
"I'd rather be probably out of second and third place so I don't have to go to the prize-giving. It makes no difference to be second or fifth if you don't win."
At the beginning of the year, when he began a comeback after two seasons in rallying, Raikkonen would have been happy enough if told he would be third at this point but his ambitions have grown since then.
"Once you do a little bit well, you expect to do better and you want to do better all the time," said the 32-year-old, who has yet to win this year but has scored points in the last 12 races with six appearances on the podium.
Under championship rules, the top three drivers attend the governing International Automobile Federation ( FIA)'s official prize-giving gala. It will be held in Istanbul after New Delhi hosted it in 2011.
Raikkonen, a racer who just wants to get in the car and drive it as fast as possible with the minimum amount of talking, has never hidden his dislike for media activities and sponsorship functions.
He will be racing at the Yeongam circuit, some 400km south of the capital Seoul, for the first time this weekend - the race made its debut in his absence in 2010 - but Raikkonen said he had done no special preparation.
He hoped to walk the track before Friday practice but has done little simulator work.
"It's never the same as driving tomorrow, I don't think it makes a lot of difference," he said.
Fourth-placed Lotus have brought significant updates to the race, including a new exhaust layout, hoping to cut the gap on Ferrari in third place. Team principal Eric Boullier has talked about the start of a new era for the team.
Raikkonen said only time would tell. "We know some numbers from the wind tunnel and all the calculations but until we run anything, we do not really know what it is going to bring us," he said. "Hopefully it works as we expect and it will improve our position a lot."