Raikkonen must emulate Schumacher off the track too

Updated: 2007-03-19 10:58
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Kimi Raikkonen must now rise to the challenge off the track as well as on it after a dominant debut win for Ferrari in Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Raikkonen must emulate Schumacher off the track too
Ferrari Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland celebrates with Ferrari team manager Jean Todt (L) on the podium after winning the Australian F1 Grand Prix in Melbourne March 18, 2007.[Reuters]
Raikkonen must emulate Schumacher off the track too
The Finn, starting from pole position and setting the fastest lap on the way to victory, made sure that his retired predecessor Michael Schumacher was not missed by the team at Albert Park.

But Ferrari's former world champion Niki Lauda warned that Raikkonen must emulate the great German in other areas as well.

"I hope he has the discipline now which, being frustrated last year a couple of times, he certainly did not have," the Austrian told reporters.

"Maybe now in his new team he is so motivated as to have a nice, light celebration and then think immediately tomorrow 'How can I get better with the team, what do I need to improve?' Because you can never stand still in Formula One.

"I know that in the past he did not put much input into McLaren. But in Ferrari he has to do that," said Lauda, champion with Ferrari in 1975 and 1977 as well as with McLaren in 1984.

"And if he has got that message, then he's going to be on the up."


Raikkonen joined Ferrari after five often frustrating years at McLaren, a team that failed to win a race last season for the first time in a decade, where he acquired a reputation as a blisteringly quick driver but one far short of Schumacher's level of commitment.

While the German would stay late at the track, discussing every detail with engineers in a constant search for improvement and advantage, the party-loving Raikkonen was not one for sticking around.

On Sunday's evidence, the Finn appeared to have settled in pretty well.

"I think the atmosphere in the team is perfect and the people are really making my life very good and easy," he said. "I really enjoy it."

Lauda agreed that fears that Ferrari would fade in the post-Schumacher era, one also without technical director and tactical mastermind Ross Brawn, certainly looked unfounded.

"People thought Ferrari would fall apart after Michael's departure," he said. "It certainly did not. And, with Kimi performing that well, the whole team is reunited in a new season in the best possible way.

"Ferrari are certainly not weaker after Michael left," added the Austrian. "They are at least the same or even better, because new motivation and a new driver can change things in a positive way."

Raikkonen's Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa finished an impressive sixth after a gearbox problem in qualifying, and subsequent engine change, relegated him to the back of the grid.

Ferrari, runners-up to Renault in the constructors' championship last season, have now won eight of the last 10 races.

"After his performance here, he (Raikkonen) certainly has no handicap in the team any more," Lauda said. "His speed is good and Massa will push him to go quicker, so I think it's a perfect team pair."

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren's managing director, agreed that his former driver and Ferrari looked the team to beat.

"I think he's capable of sustaining it," he said of Raikkonen's form.

"He's a great driver and if we are going to beat him we've got to make a quicker car and make it bloody quickly. And that's what we are going to try and do."