Lotus’ trackside operations director, Alan Permane says that Kimi Raikkonen demonstrated he is an exceptional talent almost immediately after he first stepped into a 2012-spec Renault R30 car during his re-acclimatization test in Valencia last month.
“I felt that from when he first ran. You can see that he’s an exceptional driver. For example, when we go from low fuel to high fuel, we calculate what we believe the lap time difference should be and every time he hits it on his first lap. A lesser driver takes time to feel that,” said Permane in an interview with Autosport.
Permane also reported no problems with Raikkonen’s feedback to the Lotus engineers, contrary to what has been reported by the media in the past. “His feedback is excellent. His knowledge of different engine maps and differential maps is excellent. I see no reason to say that he isn’t a good development driver.”
What really impressed the Lotus team during the testing in Jerez was the Finn’s consistency in lap times and not so much his single-lap pace, which is still difficult to judge this early in the season.
“One area where he is incredibly strong is his consistency on long runs,” said Permane. “You can tell from that how good the driver is going to be, not just from outright pace but how he holds that pace. Often you see drivers do a fast lap, a slow lap and make mistakes on long runs, but not Kimi.”
BBC Sport F1 journalist Andrew Benson was also impressed by Raikkonen’s consistency during the Jerez pre-season tests. “Looking through the lap times from Jerez , one thing jumped out – Kimi Raikkonen’s consistency. It was stunning, as it always used to be. Lap after lap was within a 10th of a second of the one before – and there were three separate occasions when he did three consecutive laps, all no more than 0.06secs apart,” said Benson.
Lotus technical director James Allison said Raikkonen did not show any signs of physical fatigue during the test in Valencia. “Kimi was doing the business pretty much from lap one and he put a lot of laps in. We did much more than a grand prix distance on both days and he looked as fresh as a daisy. Particularly on the longer runs, he doesn’t miss a beat,” he said.
Permane has also dismissed the idea that a driver should function as a team leader as well. Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali has justified his decision in the past to replace Raikkonen with Alonso by contending that the Spanish driver is better at being a team leader than the Finn.
“Drivers don’t lead the team. He doesn’t need to stand on a pedestal and tell us how to do our jobs. The sense of confidence is where the leadership comes from and he will get that respect and trust because we can see that he knows what he’s doing,” Permane stated.