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Kimi Raikkonen hopes to compete for F1 title next year

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Kimi Raikkonen still believes he can compete for another Formula One title, despite not winning a race since the start of the 2013 season.

And despite being considered Ferrari’s second driver after Sebastian Vettel.

Raikkonen sits fifth in the standings heading into this weekend’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. He can still climb to fourth but is seven points behind Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo and more than 100 points behind Vettel, who is second to leader Lewis Hamilton.

Although Raikkonen has finished third in the past three F1 races, his best results among seven podiums this year are two second-place finishes.

The 2007 F1 champion expects much more from himself.

“Obviously I am here to try to win races and win championships, so it is far from ideal,” the 38-year-old Finnish driver said. “But this is how it turned out to be. I can live with it, but it is not why I am here.”

Raikkonen was fourth in both of Friday’s practice sessions for Sunday’s race.

Ferrari took the decision over the summer to award Raikkonen a contract for one more year in 2018. Given his age, and barren winning streak, it was met with some surprise.

Raikkonen has 91 career podiums and could well reach 100 next year if Ferrari shows the same sort of improvement it did this season. But his last F1 victory was at the Australian GP in March 2013, when driving for Lotus. Since then, he has competed in 94 races without a win.

“It is far from what I wanted,” Raikkonen said, assessing his season overall. “There is one race to go, we try to make the best out of it and then obviously start next year, try to do a lot better.”

Vettel has won five races and led the F1 championship up until the summer break, after which Hamilton took control and clinches the championship to join Vettel on four world titles.

Raikkonen has long been hailed as one of the quickest drivers around.

But Vettel has largely beaten him in qualifying this season, and when Raikkonen did take pole position – at the Monaco Grand Prix – he led before Vettel overtook him following a pit stop. It raised questions of whether Ferrari had told Raikkonen to pit early in order to favor Vettel’s chances, but talk of any team orders was refuted.

Raikkonen has had bad luck.

Vettel’s crash from pole position at the Singapore GP in September took Raikkonen out of the race, too, and when Raikkonen qualified second on the grid at the next race in Malaysia he had to pull out moments before the start because of a mechanical failure. Earlier this season, at the Spanish GP, he had to retire with suspension damage.

“We had too many DNFs and never really recovered from there,” Raikkonen said. “It has been very close with quite a few cars over the races, and it is small things that count over the race weekends.”

He thinks that Ferrari needs to step up a level next year for him to compete consistently with the leading drivers.

“We need to be faster, more often, and then hopefully some things will go a bit in our direction,” he said. “We try this weekend and next year again.”

BREAKING: John Force taken to hospital after Phoenix eliminations crash

Photo courtesy NHRA
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16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force has been taken to a local hospital for evaluation and examination following a wicked crash with fellow Funny Car driver Johnnie Lindberg.

The crash occurred during the quarterfinals of Sunday’s final eliminations in the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.

Force was headed for a win when the engine on his Peak Chevrolet Camaro blew up just as it crossed the finish line, destroying the body. Lindberg, meanwhile, lost traction about one-third of the way down-track, but then got back into the gas to try and catch Force.

Force appeared to lose control of the body-less car and went across from the left lane he was in to the right-hand lane, where he hit the retaining wall in front of Lindberg.

Lindberg tried to avoid Force, but couldn’t. To make matters worse, the body on Lindberg’s car then came off and Force’s and Lindberg’s cars got tangled up in Lindberg’s parachute, sending both chassis’ into the left retaining wall.

Lindberg emerged from his Funny Car under his own power and was checked at the medical center before heading back to his pit.

Force, meanwhile, was helped out of his mangled wreck by the NHRA Safety Safari and was transported by ambulance to the hospital due to the severity of the impact.

Even though Force will be credited with the round win, he obviously will not be able to continue for the remainder of the eliminations.

To add insult to injury, NHRA officials charged Force with oiling down the racetrack, his third of the season in just the first two races. That will cost him 15 points in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standings and a fine of $4,000.

Here are several posts from social media, including video of the incident from NHRA:

This is the second time Force has had an engine explode and the body blew off in the last two weeks. He also wrecked during the qualifying Feb. 9 for the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. Here’s the video of that wreck:

MORE: John Force taken to hospital as a precaution after Funny Car motor explodes.

We’ll update Force’s condition when it becomes available.

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