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Kimi Raikkonen looks to continue 'remarkable run' as F1 resumes in Spa

By Matthew Knight, CNN
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Tue August 20, 2013
Kimi Raikkonen likes to do his talking on the race track. The Finn is currently second in the F1 drivers' championship.
Kimi Raikkonen likes to do his talking on the race track. The Finn is currently second in the F1 drivers' championship.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kimi Raikkonen has been a model of consistency for Lotus this season
  • Finn has only finished outside the top 10 once in 30 races since returning to F1 in 2012
  • The 33-year-old will not replace Mark Webber at Red Bull, according to Finn's manager
  • F1 season resumes at Spa this weekend after a four-week summer layoff

(CNN) -- He may hate the attention off the track, but it's hard to avoid the media glare when you've been driving as well as Kimi Raikkonen this season.

The Finn is currently Sebastian Vettel's nearest rival in the Formula One drivers' championship, trailing Red Bull's triple world champion by 38 points thanks to a succession of star turns for his team Lotus.

With a win in Melbourne and five second-place finishes so far this year, Raikkonen will be seeking more podiums as F1 returns to action after a four-week summer break.

This weekend, the 33-year-old will be hunting down a fifth career win at the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa -- a track he told Formula1.com was his "favorite place" and "the greatest racing circuit in the world."

Since returning to the sport in 2012, Raikkonen has been a model of consistency finishing in the points a record 27 times in succession -- he overtook Michael Schumacher's mark of 24 at the British Grand Prix in June.

"He's driving better than he ever has," Ed Foster, associate editor of Motor Sport magazine, told CNN.

"That run of finishes is amazing because even if you are driving brilliantly, to have the luck as well, to have nothing break on the car. It's a testament to Lotus for building a car that is so reliable."

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It's a view which was recently echoed by Raikkonen's team boss Eric Boullier.

"I would have to give Kimi 10 out of 10," Boullier told Formula1.com.

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"He's done a terrific job right from the beginning of the season and his remarkable run of 27 consecutive points finishes speaks for itself. No matter what happens he's always there, as we saw in the final few laps at Monaco."

Raikkonen scrapped his way to tenth place on the French Riviera and battled his way to ninth two weeks later in Montreal.

But two podiums in the last three races before F1's summer break have set him and Lotus up nicely for the remaining nine races of the season.

"He is playing a big part in pushing the team forwards, and of course having such a popular character in the seat has its advantages too," Boullier told Formula1.com.

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Boullier is optimistic that he can keep hold of his star man despite other teams warming to the task of signing the "Iceman" when his Lotus contract expires later this year.

Red Bull was considering Raikkonen as replacement for F1 retiree Mark Webber, but the Finn's manager Steve Robertson said Monday that a deal couldn't be reached.

"The negotiations with Red Bull were not successful and ended some time ago," Robertson said, according to the Finnish newspaper, Turun Sanomat. Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo is now widely tipped to take his Webber' s place.

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Raikkonen has also been linked with a return to Ferrari in recent days, according to another Finnish newspaper, Ilta-Sanomat. But the claim has been denied by Ferrari and Foster thinks a move to Italy unlikely.

The Lotus team has one thing going for it in terms of PR and the media side of things. They don't overwork Raikkonen and he's obviously very happy there
Ed Foster, Motor Sport magazine

"I just can't see him going back there after the way they parted last time," Foster said.

Raikkonen, who won the world championship with Ferrari in 2007, was released from his contract a year early in 2009 to make way for Fernando Alonso.

Of course, it may be that Raikkonen opts to stay put.

"The Lotus team has one thing going for it in terms of PR and the media side of things. They don't overwork Raikkonen and he's obviously very happy there," Foster said.

"There are all these things bubbling around about Lotus' financial situation and whether or not they can afford him.

"But one thing Raikkonen isn't really that motivated by is money. Everyone is motivated by money to a certain extent but he's not as bad as some of the other drivers."

The famously reticent Raikkonen will no doubt be relieved to find the spotlight on Lewis Hamilton in Belgium following his victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix at the end of July.

The Briton's maiden win for Mercedes has set up a potentially thrilling battle in the second half of the season.

"It's quite nicely poised. Vettel pretty much looked on the way to his fourth world championship this year but now with Hamilton's win in Hungary it's suddenly up for grabs between the two," Foster said.

Twelve months ago, Ferrari was providing the resistance, but Foster doesn't see that happening this year.

"They have lost quite a lot of ground with the front runners and I can't see them making that up. With the massive rules changes next year, unless you're definitely in the title hunt most teams are going to switch their focus to 2014 much sooner than usual," Foster said.

"It's still too early but you have to say it's between Hamilton and Vettel, I would have thought."

Hamilton currently lies fourth in the standings, 48 points behind championship leader Vettel and will be hoping for a repeat run of 2010 when he took the checkered flag for his old team McLaren.

"I wonder whether Mercedes has turned the corner?" Foster asks.

"You can't tell off the back of one race, but Hamilton was just untouchable. If they are very strong in Spa as well then you have to say that Hamilton has got every chance to catch Vettel in the championship."

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