Kimi Raikkonen’s comeback is go; the Finn is driving today the first of two days in Valencia at the wheel of a two year old Renault R30.
It’s the car with which Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov campaigned the 2010 World Championship.
It’s the first time Raikkonen has driven an F1 car since the 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. He covered 300kms on his first day and will do more tomorrow.
“Having not driven a Formula 1 car for two years and obviously with a new team, there is a lot to get used to,” said Raikkonen. “I’m happy because I was pretty quick to get back in the groove. Obviously you get more into the zone with the more laps you complete, as you discover more about the car and the tyres. Knowing when to turn, brake, and when to get on the power didn’t take long at all. The good thing is that running today gives me something to compare the new car to, so I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully we’ll be fast straight away and it’s going to be an interesting season.”
Although testing is strictly controlled in modern F1, teams can let drivers run in cars which are two years old. They must use a special Pirelli demonstration tyre, so that they don’t gain any specific gain over rivals from the testing.
It is a mechanism designed for the specific purpose of evaluating drivers or bringing them up to speed after an absence, as in Raikkonen’s case.
But it will give Raikkonen a good feel for the speed and handling again and prepare him for his first test in the new Lotus Renault car at Jerez in two weeks time.
Testing is controlled for reasons of cost; it costs around $1500 per lap to run an F1 car. And if there was more than the three pre-season tests plus the new in-season test at Mugello in May, then teams would need to employ an entirely separate test team.