ABU DHABI // Kimi Raikkonen's tenure as a Ferrari driver comes to an end on Sunday after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the Finn does not expect to be at the front fighting for victory in his swansong for the Italian team. It has been a difficult year for the 2007 world champion and Ferrari as they have struggled to match the pace setting BrawnGP and Red Bull-Renault cars, with Raikkonen expecting the status quo to remain at the Yas Marina Circuit for the final race of the year.
"The new places are always hard to say and even the normal places this year it has been changing so much up and down where people have been fast and then not so," he said. "It is the same story in that we will look at the track on Friday [in practice] and see where we are and how fast the car is." Ferrari, as one of the two teams along with McLaren-Mercedes running the Kers (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems), could be expected to have an advantage due to the speed boost the system will give them on the long 1.2km back straight, but Raikkonen does not think that will be the case.
"The other cars are faster and have more downforce, I think the difference between the teams will be the same," he said. "It is my last race with the team and I have no bad feelings and they have no bad feelings. We will try to have a good race and see what happens." This year has been a frustrating one for Raikkonen and the team as they have struggled to claw back the advantage that Brawn and Red Bull had over them at the start of the year, leaving them to fight with McLaren for third place in the constructors' table. "The car hasn't been good, as everyone knows," he said.
"After the second part of the year we have been able to do some good races, win a race, got some good podiums and got some points. "Overall we want to be first and winning championships so in that way it has been disappointing." Despite the car's aerodynamic deficiencies, Raikkonen was able to triumph at the Belgian Grand Prix in August for his 18th career win. "It is definitely the best feeling and you are only really satisfied when you win," he said.
"With the car that we had it was even more satisfying when we won." Raikkonen is being replaced at Ferrari next year by the double world champion Fernando Alonso. He has been offered a contract to drive for Toyota and has also been linked with McLaren, the team he raced for between 2002 and 2006, but said any announcement on his future will be made after the season is completed. Raikkonen joined Ferrari in 2007 and became only the ninth driver to win the championship for the team at the final race in Brazil that year, pipping the McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Alonso by one point.
In 2008 he finished joint third in the standings, while this year he is sixth in the standings on 48 points, having finished on the podium five times in total. "We won the title and last year started very well and after the first three races we had hard times, made a few mistakes and took too long to recover," he said. "This year the car is what it is and it has not really given us chance to be in the championship."
Ferrari's main battle heading into the race in Abu Dhabi is trying to take third place in the constructors' table. They are currently fourth and trail McLaren by a point, and Raikkonen hopes to help usurp the British team from that spot. "The car has improved and allowed us to fight for third place but McLaren have also worked hard to improve their car so it has been difficult," he said. "We were unlucky at the last race with what happened on the first lap [he lost his front wing in a collision with Mark Webber, but recovered to finish sixth] but we will do our best here and see what he can do."