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Raikkonen feels no extra pressure

Greg Buckle | March 03, 2004 16:04 IST

Kimi Raikkonen will start the Formula One season this week as the biggest threat to a seventh world title for German Michael Schumacher, but Finland's "Iceman" is typically cool about being the number one contender.

The McLaren driver was runner-up last year to Ferrari's Schumacher who claimed his fourth successive title and sixth in total.

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Raikkonen acknowledged he was the number one contender going by last season's results but said: "It's a completely new year and everybody starts with zero points and you do what you can.

"I don't feel pressure any more than last year," the 24-year-old told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday ahead of Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

"Of course the aim of every driver is to win the championship. It was disappointing (to finish second last year).

"We just try to beat him and we try to beat everyone else. We don't know who is going to be on top this year but I think there will be many different winners.

"Hopefully we will be there challenging for the championship.

"I don't really know if he is going to be less strong this year. We will see.

"Myself, I am more experienced and that is going to help. But the car, I don't know."

YOUNGEST CHAMPION

Raikkonen, entering his fourth season and third with McLaren, would become the youngest champion in Formula One history if he wins this year's title.

McLaren have recruited Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya from Williams for next year and Briton David Coulthard, 32, looks certain to leave McLaren after what will be his ninth season there.

The blond, green-eyed, baby-faced Raikkonen sat almost unblinking through a wide-ranging half-hour interview with Australian reporters. The questions ranged across topics including his wrist tattoo, his attitude to partying, the fighting spirit of Finnish people and his lack of heroes in Formula One as a boy.

The "Iceman" said he would enjoy it if Formula One drivers had more overtaking opportunities, and added he felt all rivals had their faults, including Schumacher.

"Everybody has weaknesses," Raikkonen said.

"We don't have a very good idea of where we are against others right now but hopefully after this weekend we are much more wise."


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