F1: KIMI :: This year is wide open

Kimi Raikkonen believes the 2006 world championship is wide open and has warned that McLaren should not automatically expect the same performance advantage it enjoyed last season.

The Finn believes rule changes, including a switch to 2.4-litre V8 power and a return to routine tyre stops, as well as the emerging threats from Japanese manufacturers Honda and Toyota means there are too many variables to predict form yet.

“Everyone in the media seems to think that it will be us, Renault and Ferrari again this year, with me, Juan Pablo, Fernando and Michael battling it out,” he said. “For me that would be great and I hope so for the fans that it is another exciting year like 2005, although with a slightly different end result!

“But you know people are forgetting the Honda’s, the Red Bull, the Toyotas and so on. “There were a lot of teams really getting strong towards the end of the season, so I think that we will have to wait and see.”

Raikkonen says his target is to win the world championship after missing out to Fernando Alonso and Renault last season.

He added that he expected McLaren to be strong again in 2006. “I want to win races and world championships with McLaren,” he said.

“We had a quick car last year, and I guess there is no reason why we will not have that again as we have the same strong design team. I can’t sit here now and say that will happen, until we race for the first time it is not possible to say how competitive the different cars will be.

“I can sit here and say that everyone in the team is fully focused and pushing hard to try to achieve it.” McLaren’s new MP4-21 made its track debut at Barcelona on Monday in the hands of test driver Pedro de la Rosa and Raikkonen gets his first taste of the car on Thursday. “I have not driven an F1 car since China, so for sure I can’t wait to get back to it this week, he said.

“I have been to the McLaren Technology Centre a few times recently to catch-up with the team and I saw the MP4-21 in car build, so I am really excited to be getting behind the wheel next week.”

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