Motor racing-Traffic takes toll on Raikkonen's title challenge

SINGAPORE, Sept 24 Sun Sep 23, 2012 6:11pm BST

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SINGAPORE, Sept 24 (Reuters) - World championship contender Kimi Raikkonen bemoaned the narrow Marina Bay Street Circuit as he struggled to weave his Lotus through the Singapore Grand Prix traffic and lost ground in the title race.

The 2007 world champion finished sixth in Sunday's race and dropped a further seven points behind leader Fernando Alonso and now trails the Ferrari driver by 45 with six rounds remaining after the Spaniard's third place finish.

Paul Di Resta claimed fourth for Force India while Nico Rosberg was fifth for Mercedes but Raikkonen believed he could have finished ahead of the German.

"We were definitely faster than Michael (Schumacher) and Nico but we ended up stuck behind them for most of the race which was frustrating," the Finn, who started the race in 12th, told reporters of the two Mercedes drivers.

"It's so hard to overtake here that you have to rely on passing people in the pitstops or on someone making a mistake."

Thankfully for Raikkonen, Schumacher did make a mistake when he slammed into the back of Jean Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso to end the duo's race on lap 38.

Raikkonen's team mate Romain Grosjean then moved aside to allow the Finn through and pick up eight points instead of six to keep his slim title hopes alive.

"I'm still third in the drivers' championship but we've got some improvements to make for the next races to be fighting with the cars in front. Hopefully we can make a step forward in Japan (Oct.7) and take it from there."

NEVER EASY

Raikkonen moved above McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, who retired when leading with a gearbox failure, in the standings but behind race winner Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull.

Grosjean said he did not enjoy letting Raikkonen past but understood the position of the team.

"Of course, I dropped a position to Kimi. He was quicker than me towards the end of the race and there was no sense in holding him up," Grosjean told reporters.

"It's never easy as a driver to let someone past - even if it is your team mate - but we need to be intelligent in these circumstances."

The seventh place finish, though, was of some comfort to the Frenchman on his return to the track after he was banned from the Italian grand Prix earlier this month for causing a first corner pile-up in Belgium.

Grosjean had been criticised for his driving style after being involved in a number of incidents prior to the Belgium crash but on Sunday he earned praise for avoiding problems.

"Both drivers did a good job to avoid the incidents on track and get a double points finish, which based on our grid position and overall performance this weekend is a very positive result," Renault Sport F1 Team Support leader Ricardo Penteado said. (Editing by John O'Brien)

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