MANAMA (Reuters) - Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene welcomed back the Kimi Raikkonen of old on Sunday after the 2007 world champion stepped back on the Formula One podium in Bahrain after a long absence.
The Finnish ‘Iceman’ took a strong second place in the floodlit race at the desert Sakhir circuit for his first top three finish since he was second for Lotus in South Korea in October 2013.
It was also his first podium finish for Ferrari since 2009, the final year of his first stint at Maranello. The Finn returned in 2014.
“I’m happy for Kimi because now I can say officially that... Kimi is back and we have two strong drivers,” said Arrivabene.
Raikkonen is out of contract at the end of the season, although Ferrari have an option for 2016, and the 35-year-old has indicated he wants to stay on at the sport’s most successful team.
His form has certainly picked up, after a disappointing 2014 alongside Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso when he scored only 55 points to the Spaniard’s 161, but so too has the team’s performance.
The arrival of four-times champion Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull has already brought Ferrari their first win since 2013 and Raikkonen said on Sunday he wanted a piece of the action.
His strategy on Sunday, leaving a set of soft tires to last when others were running on slower mediums, could certainly have brought more.
As it was, he still set the fastest lap of the race — the 41st of his career and lifting him level with four-times champion Alain Prost in joint second place in the all-time lists.
“You cannot feel happy. We are happy to be second but it’s still disappointing. It’s not what we want to do,” Raikkonen told reporters.
“I had a pretty hard time last year. This year in the beginning, just some bad luck in the races but the team has done a great job over the winter and everybody is pushing together in the same direction.
“I’m sure we are only going to get stronger and better as a team and improve the car. So, it’s a great place to be,” he added.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar