Kimi Räikkönen set the pace at the wheel of the new Lotus-Renault E20 in the first day’s official pre-season test at Jerez on Tuesday.
Positive, although the 2007 world champion is sufficiently laid-back and philosophical to know that testing – from the viewpoint of comparative lap times in any event – really doesn’t amount to a row of beans when it comes to the wider picture.
Yet better fast rather than not-so-fast. And the re-invented Lotus team will take great comfort from the fact that the Finn, when properly hooked up on an ‘on day’ is probably as fast as anybody out there.
His post-championship blues, which seemed to trigger a gentle decline in his F1 fortunes, were responsible for him making what I can only describe as a mental aberration in the form of a two year sabbatical with Citroën in the WRC. You can make all the excuses, proffer all the explanations, that you may like for Kimi’s inability to get to grips with that WRC machine, but I believe the Finn always had something of a wayward streak to his character.
In F1 that always manifested itself in huge self-belief and the capacity to push consistently right to the very edge. In WRC the same strategy meant that he regularly used up any margin for error. And frequently went over it.
“The lap times don’t matter today,” said Kimi after his first session at Jerez. “I’m happy with the balance of the car which feels good, and the fact we didn’t have any major issues. I didn’t have any physical problems either.”
Tight behind the Lotus at the end of the first day was Paul di Resta’s Force India, Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes and the new Red Bull RB8 of Mark Webber. It remains to be seen whether a Lotus is ever ahead of a Red Bull again this season. If it is, then the Kimster and his pals will be doing well.