The `Iceman` exudes warmth on Formula One return
Melbourne: Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen is happy to be back in Formula One but unsure of how long he will be staying as he remains convinced there is much more to life than motor racing.
The 32-year-old Finn walked away from the sport apparently disinterested in 2009 after a three-year stint with Ferrari during which he brought the sport`s most famous and glamorous team their last drivers` championship in 2007.
Although Raikkonen could never be accused of being effusive, in public at least, he was polite and engaged as he discussed his return at the Lotus team hospitality area at Albert Park, the venue for Sunday`s season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
"I`m always happy, if you`re not happy, you do something else," he said in his familiar monotone, his arms folded in front of him and his eyes hidden by a huge pair of reflective sunglasses.
"It`s good to be back in racing. Hopefully we`re going to have a good year but we don`t know yet.”
"If we are last, then I am disappointed but I don`t think we are going to be last. The car feels good but are we fast enough? I don`t know."
Raikkonen, who has always had little time for the hoopla that surrounds Formula One, said he was back simply for the racing.
"The racing is the main thing, drivers like to race, that`s not any secret," he said. "That`s what I want to do... and the rest is part of it."
Nicknamed the "Iceman", Raikkonen spent his two years away from Formula One racing in the world rally championship, something he said he would like to keep up despite his return.
He had earlier drawn gasps of surprise from a packed news conference when he declared that he had not watched much Formula One during his time away.
"I don`t care what they think," he said. "There`s an awful lot of other things in life than Formula One. Maybe some of the people here don`t have anything except Formula One in their lives.”
"That doesn`t mean if I don`t watch the race, I don`t like it. I never said that, I have always liked the racing, I always liked Formula One.”
"There are certain things on the outside in Formula One that I`m not the biggest fan of, but I have never hidden that. People can think what they like but I have other things to do at that time. I had my own things to do and not sit in my home and watch racing."
One of the other things Raikkonen has clearly never liked in Formula One is the team politics. He said, nevertheless, that he had no ill-feeling for Ferrari and had enjoyed catching up with team boss Stefano Domenicali in Melbourne.
"I never had any issues with anyone there - well, maybe one person," he recalled. "As I said on the day I left, I wouldn`t change anything. I had a good time with them, some bad times too, I achieved the championship with them."
Perhaps the fact that he left Ferrari with a year left on his contract makes him reluctant to predict how long his comeback will last despite having signed a two-year deal with Lotus.
"Who knows? I have no plans," he said. "I have a contract, but sometimes when you have a contract, it doesn`t mean anything in Formula One. You never know in Formula One. So just wait and see what happens in the future."
Raikkonen said the early days of his relationship with Lotus, who raced as Renault until the end of last season, had been positive.
"So far, I haven`t found any bad things in Lotus, they are nice people and they like racing and not so much politics, they want to do racing and they want to do it well," he said. "That`s a good sign."
That relationship will only have been improved by the surprising pace the car showed in pre-season testing.
So could he spring a major surprise at a circuit where he scored a point for Sauber on his Formula One debut in 2001 and won in his first race for Ferrari in 2007?