Kimi Raikkonen believes it is too tough to call which of the top three teams has the quickest car this season after a three-way fight for victory in the Chinese Grand Prix.
Ferrari locked out the front row for the second race in succession in Shanghai, however Sebastian Vettel was jumped by Valtteri Bottas during the first round of pit stops, apparently setting Mercedes up for its first victory of the season. But after a Safety Car allowed Red Bull to fit fresh tires for the final part of the race, Daniel Ricciardo climbed through to take the win from Bottas and Raikkonen.
Asked about the current pecking order at the front of the grid, Raikkonen replied: “It’s very hard to say.
“I think if you ask anybody, it’s a bit tricky to give you an answer. I think [in China] a lot of the end results depended on whether you had better tires than others, when you could offset yourself to the others. Obviously, it’s part of the game. A big part of the game. And here it made a big difference. And the Safety Car playing in there. So, like pure speed, with everybody on the same tires… it’s difficult, very difficult to say in a race.”
Raikkonen says such a scenario is good for Formula 1, because the quickest team is likely to change depending on the circuit characteristics.
“I think it’s nice like that, for everybody to watch, because nobody really knows,” he said “Everybody would love to know, nobody really does because it changes from race to race. And such a small difference makes a big difference in the end results. I think you just have to wait and see. I think it might change from race to race and who runs what tires.”
With Bottas having jumped Vettel in Sunday’s race, Raikkonen’s strategy was compromised to try and help his teammate regain the lead, and the Finn admits a podium felt like a bonus after “a little bit of luck with the Safety Car” bunched the field just as he he’d been cut adrift in sixth place.
“I had good speed on the mediums but in the end we would have needed the soft tires to really go for it,” he said. “I was kind of OK in the end, but once I got close I had much more speed than Valtteri. But once you get close it’s so difficult to follow people, to get a good run you need much better tires to get that proper run and you can kind of offset yourself. But I’ll take what I got, because at one point it didn’t look good at all.”