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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.”

Could Scott Dixon someday break Foyt, Andretti wins and championships records?

IndyCar
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With five races left in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Scott Dixon is in the driver’s seat to potentially earn a fifth career IndyCar championship.

After winning Sunday at Toronto, Dixon now has a 62-point edge over second-ranked and defending series champ Josef Newgarden and a 70-point lead over third-ranked Alexander Rossi.

The triumph north of the border was Dixon’s third there, as well as his 44th career IndyCar win, third-highest in IndyCar annals.

Add in the four IndyCar championships and those are stellar numbers indeed.

What makes things all the more amazing is Dixon has done all that in under 18 full seasons on the IndyCar circuit. Heck, he’s only 37 years old, too (although he turns 38 on July 22).

Dixon’s championships have come in 2003 (his first full season in IndyCar after two prior seasons in CART/Champ Car), 2008, 2013 and most recently in 2015.

The quiet, unassuming New Zealander has been one of the most successful drivers ever not just in IndyCar, but in all forms of motorsports.

When his name is mentioned, it’s typically included with the only two drivers who have more career wins than he does: A.J. Foyt (67 wins and seven championships, both records) and Mario Andretti (52 wins and four titles).

That’s a pretty lofty pair to be part of.

One might think that after all the success he’s had, Dixon could easily walk away from IndyCar and Chip Ganassi Racing and enjoy an early retirement.

But competing in and winning races isn’t really a job for Dixon. He enjoys what he’s doing so much that he easily could keep doing what he’s doing – and at a high level – for another seven or more years, at least.

So, can Dixon catch Mario and A.J.? The former would be easier than the latter, for sure.

Numerically, it’s possible – at least part of it:

* Dixon can easily be competitive into his mid-40s.

* He’s averaged three-plus wins every season since 2007 (37 wins from then through Sunday). That means if he can keep that average going, he could reach 24 more wins – to overtake Foyt – by 2026. Yes, that may be a stretch to even imagine, but if there’s any current driver who potentially could overtake Foyt, it’s Dixon.

* Dixon already has three wins this season, and with five more races still to go, he could easily win another one, two or maybe even three more in 2018 as he continues his road to the championship. And let’s not forget that with each additional win, that’s one win closer to overtaking Andretti and Foyt.

In his usual modest and humble manner, Dixon downplays not just talk comparing him with Andretti and Foyt, but also overtaking one or both.

“I think A.J. is pretty safe,” he said. “He’s a long ways ahead. … Eight (championships) is an infinity away. Takes a long time to get eight.”

But that doesn’t mean Dixon can’t keep working at approaching Foyt’s mark.

“I think for us, we take it race by race,” he said. “We’re in the business of winning races. If we’re not doing that, I won’t have a job for too long. That’s the focus for right now.”

If he wins the championship this year, he’ll pass Andretti’s championship mark. That would be one record down, three to go.

And if he can win nine more races over the next few seasons, he’ll pass Andretti’s 52 career wins, making it two records down and two more to go.

“Right now with 44 wins, next on the list is Mario I think at 52 or something,” Dixon said after Sunday’s win. “We’ll see how it goes. Right now, we’re just trying to get the job done for the team.”

And he’s doing a darn good job at that indeed – with likely even more success still to come.

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