| LONDON, Sept 10
LONDON, Sept 10 Kimi Raikkonen has moved
stealthily up the Formula One standings to a healthy third place
and the Lotus driver could become even more of a contender now
the championship has turned its back on Europe.
Lotus team principal Eric Boullier made no secret of the
fact that Monza, the fastest track on the calendar and a power
circuit with long straights and few corners, did not play to his
car's strengths on Sunday.
"We knew here would not be easy," he said after Raikkonen
finished fifth at the Italian Grand Prix, the last European race
of the year with the focus now on the Far and Middle East before
the season ends in the Americas.
"We look forward now obviously to the next races because it
should suit our car much better."
Scoring regular points has been key in this most
unpredictable of championships and Raikkonen and Ferrari's
championship leader Fernando Alonso have been the kings of
Raikkonen has scored points in his last 10 races and,
although the Finn has yet to win in his comeback season after
two years in the world rally championship, he has been on the
podium six times in 13 races.
Alonso's focus has been mostly on Red Bull's world champion
Sebastian Vettel and McLaren's Monza race winner Hamilton so far
this season but the Spaniard may have to take his Ferrari
predecessor into account as well now.
Both Red Bulls failed to finish at Monza but Raikkonen
banked points as usual.
Alonso will need no reminding of how Raikkonen took the 2007
title against the odds, mounting one of the sport's great
comebacks by winning three of the last four races of that season
to pip Hamilton and the Spaniard, at the time McLaren team
mates, by a single point.
"It's good to go into third position," said Raikkonen, just
one point behind Hamilton and 38 adrift of Alonso despite the
top two having each won three races this year.
"It was a difficult weekend as we were too slow in a
straight line. We came into the race looking for sixth or
seventh so fifth is the maximum we could have done here this
Nobody has won more than three races this year and Raikkonen
has plenty of time to clamber on top of the podium before the
year is out. Japan's Suzuka circuit, which comes after next
week's Singapore Grand Prix, is a particular favourite.
Raikkonen was Lotus's sole points scorer on Sunday, with
regular French team mate Romain Grosjean banned for the race
after causing a pile-up at the start in Belgium and replaced by
Belgian reserve Jerome D'Ambrosio.
D'Ambrosio's hopes were hit by a KERS problem, a big blow at
a track like Monza, and Grosjean will be back for Singapore
champing at the bit but with a lesson learned after a weekend
spent watching and listening from the garages.
"I think he learned a lot because being in your car you have
only one radio in your head, when you are sitting in the garage
you have both cars and you can learn a lot," said Boullier.
"I think he is extremely eager (to return)."
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)