ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Kimi Raikkonen returned to the top of the Formula One podium for the first time since 2009 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday, leaving his Lotus team in no doubt that he knew what he was doing.
The Finn, 2007 world champion with Ferrari, was typically blunt when his race engineer spoke to him on the radio shortly after he was gifted the lead by Lewis Hamilton’s sudden retirement.
“Leave me alone. I know what to do,” he replied drily.
Raikkonen can be a man of few words, sometimes unintelligible or inaudible to all but the most attentive of listeners, who would rather let his driving do the talking than engage in chit-chat.
”I‘m not so stupid that I cannot remember what I‘m doing,“ he explained later. ”It’s a normal thing.
“They are just trying to help...I will also ask for help if I need it...different people like different things.”
He said when he announced his comeback, after two years in rallying and some NASCAR truck racing in the United States, that he was the same as ever and he has shown that on and off the track this season.
Sunday’s win was his seventh podium in 18 races back and his 19th career triumph. He also became the eighth different driver to win this season.
Seven-times champion Michael Schumacher, 43, has gone almost three years with nothing more than one third place to celebrate with Mercedes but Raikkonen has been on the money right from the start.
He said he could win if Lotus, the former Renault team, delivered the goods and he was as good as his word at the Yas Marina circuit.
Asked on the podium by his now-retired former McLaren team mate David Coulthard to talk about his emotions and explain how amazing it was to win again, Raikkonen simply shrugged.
“Not much really,” he said, recalling how the last time he had been in such a position he was criticized for not smiling enough.
“I‘m happy but there’s nothing to jump around about. For sure we’re going to have a good party today and hopefully tomorrow when we are feeling bad after a long night.”
Raikkonen has always liked a good party and having fun is part of the makeup of a man who has entered powerboat races dressed in a gorilla suit, been photographed embracing inflatable dolphins and competed in snowmobiles under the name of the late F1 racer James Hunt.
Sunday was a night of fun, a race win that the ‘Iceman’ set up by seizing second place at the start from fourth place on the grid and then holding on to his advantage despite two safety car periods eating away at his lead.
The victory was the first for the Lotus marque since 1987 when Brazilian Ayrton Senna won for a very different team at the USA East Grand Prix in Detroit.
Raikkonen’s Lotus are descended from the Benetton and Renault teams that most recently won two titles with Fernando Alonso in 2005 and 2006 and whose last race win was in Japan with the Spaniard in 2008.
“We have had hard times lately and hopefully it gives some belief for the people,” said Raikkonen who last week signed a contract extension for 2013 with the team that are fourth in the constructors’ standings.
“Hopefully it gives a bit more support and hope that things will turn around and be even better than it’s been this year.”
Editing by Tony Jimenez