SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Kimi Raikkonen enjoyed an unexpected podium finish at the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday after racing from 13th to third despite a back injury that had threatened to prevent him driving.
The Lotus driver had taken pain killers to get through qualifying on Saturday but he improved overnight and made the most of a shrewd strategy on race day to claim his seventh podium of the Formula One season.
“I didn’t feel it too much in the race,” the 2007 world champion said of his ailment. “Yesterday not ideal and I almost didn’t drive. We have to be happy enough with finishing third and we can sort the problems for the next race.
“It is not the first time I have had some issues with my back and I know I have some work to do over the winter so we will see what we can do.”
The Finn, who will rejoin Ferrari next season after leaving them in 2009 and spending two years out of the sport, opted to pit on lap 26 under the safety car and expertly managed his tires to finish the 61 lap race without any further change.
It was the same tactic employed by Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who finished second and who will be with Raikkonen at the Italian team next season.
“We had a plan and we know that at the moment the safety car goes in we would try and go to the end. I knew that would happen and lucky that some other teams couldn’t do it and they had to pit,” the Finn said.
As those other teams pitted, Raikkonen moved up to fourth and into a battle with McLaren’s Jenson Button who he eventually overtook on the outside with a canny move on lap 55.
“I was stuck behind Jenson for most of the race but I tried to give him some pressure and I noticed he was running out of his tires and I started getting closer and closer and I decided to pass him,” the former McLaren driver said.
“Maybe it looks more tricky. You have more grip when you brake on-line and it’s easier to know where you have to brake than on the inside,” Raikkonen said of his neat pass.
“It’s not an easy one but I managed to get past and that is the main thing.”
The Finn had begun his week in Singapore by going public with the failure of Lotus to pay him which had annoyed team principal Eric Boullier, but he was back in favor with the Frenchman after his expert drive.
“A brilliant drive, yes. He didn’t do any mistakes and he was there when we asked him to push,” Boullier said.
“Obviously he was helped by a brilliant strategy and a lot of clear laps at the beginning. We pitted him early on purpose, he got a lot of free air laps where he could push.”
Raikkonen finished 11 seconds behind Alonso but was 43 adrift of race winner Sebastian Vettel who strolled to a third consecutive victory around the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
Boullier bemoaned the pace of Vettel’s Red Bull, whose best lap was two-and-a-half seconds quicker than that of Raikkonen’s.
“I don’t think we can even speak about chasing this car because this car is flying compared with the others,” he said.
“It’s frustrating and it’s a bit killing the show, let’s say, so that’s not very nice. But we do our best at least to make something better.”
Reporting by Patrick Johnston, editing by Alan Baldwin