DC backs Kimi to surprise

Date published: March 13 2012

BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard believes Kimi Raikkonen “could be the surprise of the season”…

BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard believes Kimi Raikkonen “could be the surprise of the season”.

After spending two seasons in the World Rally Championship, Raikkonen returns to Formula One this campaign after signing a two-year contract with Lotus.

The 32-year-old Finn had no problems readapting to F1 during pre-season testing, but it remains to be seen whether or not he can rediscover the form that made him one of the best drivers on the grid.

Coulthard, though, is confident Raikkonen will do well this year as he is a “more mature driver”.

“I think there has been been a change in Kimi. Let’s not forget that he arrived in F1 when he was 21, which is very young. He has now had a chance to go away and think about things,” he told BBC Sport.

“The two years he has spent away from the sport have allowed him to refocus on what he really enjoys doing – and that’s racing. I think he’ll come back a more mature driver.

“Now I know it’s difficult to imagine why an ex-World Champion could be the surprise of the season, but I think in this case, Kimi could be just that.

“I’ve gone from initially being sceptical to now being an absolute believer in his return. It’s good for Kimi Raikkonen, it’s good for F1 and it should be good for the fans.”

Although he is backing Raikkonen to do well, Coulthard admits it is difficult to judge just where in the pecking order he and Lotus will be this campaign.

“If Lotus give him the space to be himself, which is a happy racing driver who isn’t required to get bogged down doing things he doesn’t enjoy doing, I think he could be better in his second career than he was in his first,” Coulthard said.

“His results will ultimately come down to the performance of the car. Lotus have shown good form in testing but we won’t know if that was showboating for sponsors or genuine pace until we get to Melbourne.

“What I do know is that Lotus have a winning DNA. They are a championship-winning team – having won world titles in their previous guises as Benetton and Renault – so I see no reason why they can’t get back to being competitive.

“Can they really challenge Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes? It’s difficult to imagine at this moment in time but let’s wait and see.”