Valencia: Kimi Raikkonen`s Formula One comeback picked up speed in Valencia Monday when the Finn, returning with Lotus, tested a grand prix car for the first time since 2009.
The "Iceman," 2007 world champion with Ferrari and winner of 18 races with the Italian team and McLaren, is returning to Formula One this season after two years in the world rally championship.
Lotus, formerly Renault, said in a statement that the 32-year-old aimed to drive as many laps as possible in the two days at the Spanish circuit to get acquainted with his new team and reacclimatise himself with a Formula One car.
They issued a picture of Raikkonen on his first lap in the two-year-old Renault R30 - painted in Lotus`s black-and-gold livery - at the Ricardo Tormo track.
"It was nice to get back in the car," Raikkonen, who will be one of six champions on the grid this season, told Sky Sports television at the circuit.
"It was quite a few years since I have driven last time, so of course it takes a little while to get used to it. But the main driving, braking, turning and normal things doesn`t take many laps.
"Of course to start learning about the car and the team and tyres and everything, that will take time," he said.
Raikkonen`s new Lotus car will be launched on the team`s website (www.lotusf1team.com) on February 5 before the first official test of the season at the Jerez track in southern Spain starts on February 7.
Teams are not allowed to test up-to-date cars outside of official sessions which meant Raikkonen could drive only an older machine using demonstration tyres. The season starts in Australia on March 18.
"The day went pretty much as we planned, which is great," said trackside engineer Alan Permane in a team statement."
"Kimi was on the pace we expected straight away. He completed around 300km, going through three sets of tyres. It leaves us with four sets for tomorrow, meaning we can run a bit longer.”
"We worked on getting him comfortable in the car, giving him a feel for the setup changes, and helping him get to know his engineers," added Permane.
"It`s always great to work with a top driver who is not just quick, but professional, and Kimi has all of those characteristics. His feedback is excellent, his requests are concise and to the point. We`re looking forward to a good season with him."