Friday, November 1, 2013

Raikkonen pay row puts Vettel in desert shade

Abu Dhabi (AFP) - Unpaid Kimi Raikkonen on Friday threatened to walk out on Lotus in a dramatic Abu Dhabi Grand Prix gesture of defiance which overshadowed world champion Sebastian Vettel's scorching practice pace.

Raikkonen, who joins Ferrari next year, went close to not turning up for this weekend’s race, but instead arrived late and took fourth place in the evening's practice session.

The Finn has been at loggerheads with Lotus for several months and last weekend the tension was exposed when he exchanged profanities with them during the Indian Grand Prix.

Raikkonen is believed to be owed more than 15 million euros by the team.

"I came here only because hopefully we found an understanding on the certain issues we have been having," said Raikkonen when he met reporters at the end of Friday’s practice.

“Hopefully it will be fixed and we can finish the season as well as we can."

When asked if he would contemplate not taking part in the final races in the United States and in Brazil, he said: "For sure. I enjoy racing, I enjoy driving -- but a big part of it is business.

"Sometimes when that is not dealt with like it should, we end up in an unfortunate situation. You have to put the line somewhere, and if it goes over that... it is not really my fault anymore."

Earlier in the day, the team had tried to play down the extent of their problems after making apologies for the language used in last Sunday's interchange between Raikkonen and pit-wall boss Alan Permane.

Raikkonen said: "It is a part of it. It is true those things should not happen but they have happened. That is not really the issue.

"It is all the other stuff, and all the things come together in the end. Like I said, it is easy to say that is the reason but it is not that."

"Sometimes it is not very nice when you hear that you are not really a team player, and you don't have the interests of the team (at heart) - but you have been paid zero euro the whole year," said Raikkonen.

Raikkonen's paddock rage came on the day when world champion Vettel clocked the fastest time ahead of Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber in second free practice.

The newly-crowned quadruple world champion, who is seeking to secure his seventh successive victory, was third quickest in morning practice, but responded in style in the afternoon.

His fastest lap time of one minute and 41.335 seconds lifted him one-tenth of a second clear of Webber in a session run in cooling conditions and under dazzling floodlights at the ultra-modern Yas Marina Circuit.

The ambient temperature dropped by 14 degrees during the session after recordings of 35 degrees Celsius for the air and 46 for the track earlier in the day.

Lewis Hamilton, who has always enjoyed and impressed at the Yas Marina, was third fastest for Mercedes ahead of Raikkonen, Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes and Sergio Perez of McLaren.

Vettel, who admitted he felt sick after a night of celebrations in the hotel bar following his triumph in last Sunday’s Indian Grand Prix, once again looked to be in utter command.

Afterwards, he said he felt that the troubled Lotus team appeared to be the biggest threat to his winning streak.

"It will be the usual suspects, to be honest," he said, when asked who might emerge as his main rivals.

"Lotus is exceptionally quick, especially come Sunday, and may be able to pull off strong pace later on in the stint -- so we will have to keep an eye on them."

Hamilton endured a difficult Friday despite being the best-placed non-Red Bull.

He suffered a differential problem, but said he felt confident.

"The long run is always interesting," said Hamilton.

"It's difficult to know what the car is going to do and as the car gets cooler, it goes into more understeer and it's about how much more or less front wing you need.

"That's the big challenge -- just trying to balance how fast you go to how much you save the tyres to make them last longer."

For McLaren, this weekend –- and the following last two races of the year -– present the team with a challenge.

The last time McLaren went through a season without a podium finish was back in 1980.

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