Date: 14th May 2012 at 9:30am
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It’s a sign of how far Lotus have come this season that a third place finish for Kimi Raikkonen is almost now seen as a disappointment.

The weekend almost went so well for them, they might not have been taking the headlines during the practice sessions, but the talk amongst the paddock was that Lotus would be heading into the Spanish Grand Prix looking very strong.

In FP1 Kimi was ninth quickest, 0.855 seconds off the pace, in FP2 he closed the gap to 0.519 seconds, finishing in fifth.

On the day of qualifying in FP3 he was back down to ninth 0.768 seconds off the pace, but it was the longer runs on the harder compound tyre that was impressing everyone up and down the pit-lane.

With Sebastian Vettel, Michael Schumacher and Kamui Kobayashi not running in Q3, the pole position shoot-out was between seven and Kimi was to finish qualifying in fifth place, although he was later to be promoted to fourth following Lewis Hamilton’s exclusion.

After qualifying, the 2007 Formula One World Champion was pretty content with his afternoon’s work: ?I think we had a chance to be in the top three but we?ve been fighting with the set-up quite a bit today. We changed the car for qualifying and actually it was the correct call in the end; it was just a few small mistakes which cost me some time on my Q3 lap. We?ll see how it goes tomorrow in the race; the car has usually been better on Sunday than it has been on Saturday, so if that?s the case tomorrow we?ll be pretty happy. he told formula1.com.

And of course Kimi would be proved right, although his Lotus didn’t quite live up to the high expectations many had.

They might not have had the one-lap pace to battle for pole position, but come Sunday, it was looking like they would be strong contenders for the race win.

Many thought that Raikkonen could challenge the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso and the Williams of Maldonado with much better pace on the harder tyre.

Quite a few in the media even had Raikkonen as the favourite for the race, as their cars because they had previously shown such good pace on the Pirelli tyres during previous race afternoons.

But for some reason the Finn was unable to keep pace with Alonso and Maldonado during the first stint of the race after taking third place into the first corner.

‘I had a very good start and had a chance to overtake on the outside, but we did not have enough speed and I hit the limiter in fifth gear. I am a bit disappointed because if everything had gone right in the first part of the race, we could have won. There was no issue with the speed of the car, but it is so close between all the teams that if you have a small problem or a small issue it can cost so much.’

Towards the end of the race rather than Alonso hunting down Maldonado on fresher tyres, the double world champion was actually having to keep a close eye on his mirrors with Kimi closing the gap by a second a lap.

But in the end Alonso held on to second place with the Lotus driver settling for third, but in the knowledge that his car does have the ability of taking victory this season.

Kimi continued: ‘Our car can do it, but everything has to fall into the right place to be able to get on to the top step. My first stint was okay, but I didn’t have the speed to stay with the cars in front. We changed the tyres and it seemed to be pretty good, but we were too far away. At the end we needed a few more laps and we could have fought for the win. We’re not far away from it and so far we’ve made good steps forwards; the car feels strong everywhere.’

Another good points day for Kimi Raikkonen, places him in fourth place in the drivers world championship and still within touching distance of Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton ahead of him.