Alfa Romeo and Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen is heading into his 19th season in Formula One when it begins at the Sakhir International Circuit next month. The 2007 F1 World Champion became the most experienced driver in the history of the sport when he made his 323rd start at the Eifel Grand Prix last October.
2020 was an extremely difficult campaign for the Swiss outfit as they only scored eight points during the season, with Raikkonen and Giovinazzi both scoring four points as they finished P16 and P17 in the standings respectively.
Asked about his expectations ahead of the new season, Raikkonen was philosophical as usual: "We’ll need to see how it goes: see how the car is when we get to try it and do the best we can in testing,’’ said the Finn.
"Obviously, there have been some changes in the rules, even though the basic car is the same: the chassis is frozen but we have a new engine, some new elements, so we have to find out how the package works together and go from there.
"Besides that, the preparations are always the same every year. It’s nice to get started again."
With only three days of pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit in March, Raikkonen knows they cannot afford reliability problems and a compromise must be made between what the drivers and team want to do.
"We will find out what the main priorities are soon enough," said Raikkonen.
"Of course, the team always has many things they want to try and the drivers may prefer to do one thing, like trying different set-ups, so you need to find a compromise so that you get the most out of these days.
"This year, with only one and a half days per driver, there cannot be any reliability issue – you can’t afford to lose half a day or a full day as you will be left with not much to work with.
"It’ll be important to pick and choose the right things to tests, trying to spread it over the three days: I am hoping for good mileage and to finish the week feeling positive."
Raikkonen will be alongside Antonio Giovinazzi for a third consecutive year and the Finn says he hopes to bring the team forward with his Italian teammate who he’s ‘’always had a good relationship’’ with.
"Our main objective is hopefully having better results as a team this year," he stated. "Antonio and I are working to move the team forward – let’s see how this season goes."
Next month will be the 20th anniversary of Raikkonen’s debut in Formula One at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix. The 21-time Grand Prix winner desire to drive F1 cars and race wheel-to-wheel against other cars is what gives the Finn the motivation to continue after so long in the sport.
“Time goes quickly,’’ he said.'’Obviously it's quite a long time ago but then I was a couple of years out of F1 in the middle of it, so it doesn't feel like 20 years.
“Obviously the racing and the driving [is what still excites me]. I've never been a big fan of all the rest… but I enjoy the racing and the challenge to try to improve things and getting better.