Kimi Raikkonen certain Lotus will be closer to Red Bull in qualifying in Malaysia

Oz winner doesn't think E21's single-lap pace is so bad

By James Galloway.   Last Updated: 21/03/13 10:44am

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Kimi Raikkonen has expressed confidence that Australian GP winners Lotus aren't as far behind the Red Bulls on single-lap pace as last weekend's qualifying session at Melbourne suggested.

Although Raikkonen ultimately won the season-opening event last Sunday thanks largely to the fact his Lotus car was kind enough on its tyres to complete one less pitstop than his main rivals, his success had seemed unlikely after the Finn only qualified on the fourth row with a best lap time which was 1.3s slower than the dominant Red Bulls.

Pace over a single lap had proved the team's Achilles heel last season, and was duly targeted for improvement with the new E21 in 2013, yet the Melbourne result provided little evidence a breakthrough had been made.

However, asked during his appearance in the Thursday Drivers' Press Conference at Sepang if this was a concern heading into this weekend's Malaysian race, Raikkonen pointed to mitigating circumstances for the relative Q3 underperformance.

"I wouldn't say that the qualifying was a very normal situation with all the weather and [the fact] it got delayed and all that stuff," Raikkonen insisted.

"So if we put a normal dry condition I'm pretty sure we are closer - I hope at least. We will wait and see until once we get the normal qualifying done. I'm sure we are not a second behind."

Irrespective of whether or not they manage to qualify closer to the front row at Sepang, the Enstone team are again being strongly tipped to feature prominently in Sunday's race - particularly if the weather stay dry given the team's competitiveness in hot, dry conditions was one of their core strengths last season.

Raikkonen is naturally hopeful the E21 will display similar tendencies but concedes they can't be sure yet be sure the characteristic has transferred across to the 2013 car.

"We will not know yet," he admitted.

"Last year we were pretty good when it was hot and actually it was better for us but obviously we haven't run in these kind of conditions and the winter was very cold, so I have no idea.

"But if it's anything [like] what it was last year it should be pretty okay, but we have to wait and see how it goes."

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