The Alfa Romeo driver was one of the stars of qualifying on Saturday, snatching P5 on the grid right at the end of Q3. Capitalising upon the technical problems encountered by both Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, Raikkonen put in a 1:12.538 to go just 0.7 seconds from pole position.
Having been delayed by a minor technical issue with his Alfa at the start of Q3, Raikkonen’s one and only time in Q3 was put in under pressure and resulted in the team’s best qualifying position since the 2013 United States Grand Prix when Nico Hulkenberg put his Sauber in P4.
“Qualifying in fifth makes me happy but it’s only qualifying, the race is tomorrow.” said a content Raikkonen. “We made a few gains through other people’s misfortunes, but in the end we still had to put in the laps when it counted and we did.”
The taciturn Finn is never one to get too carried away with excitement and, despite his brilliant qualifying efforts, still reckoned he could have achieved more: “The car has been pretty good today and I think we could have been a bit faster in Q3: maybe fourth place was within reach, but that’s racing.”
“It’s very difficult to read into our race pace from yesterday as the conditions have changed a lot and could be even different tomorrow. We have to see if the rain comes and figure out the weather the best we can. It will be hard to race against the big teams; we’ll just take today’s result as it is, give everything tomorrow and see where we end up.”
Team boss Frederic Vassuer praised Raikkonen for his result, saying: “Placing a car on the third row is a positive result but points are not given on Saturday, so we still need to focus on our job. We have looked competitive all weekend so far and we are pleased with today’s result. Kimi looked quick from Q1 and delivered a good lap in his only attempt in Q3. The weather will be a big variable tomorrow: finding the right strategy will be crucial especially should the rain come.”