SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) — When Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen steps into his car these days, he often doesn't know what kind of performance will follow.
It can range from winning the season-opening Australian Grand Prix to qualifying ninth on Saturday for the Bahrain GP. Following Lewis Hamilton's five-spot grid penalty, he will start from eighth place on Sunday. But it's not the kind of performance that shows the Finn is ready to challenge for the drivers' championship title this season.
Raikkonen, who finished second last week in China, said the team has struggled all weekend to find the car's steering balance and his poor qualifying lap hasn't helped.
"It wasn't the easiest qualifying session after a weekend which hasn't been the easiest so far either," Raikkonen said. "Yesterday it was difficult at times to find the balance with the car and I found that again today. This morning it felt good and we didn't do too bad in free practice, but we didn't quite get it right this afternoon. My lap wasn't great, but it's a long race so we'll just have to see what we can do tomorrow."
Raikkonen finished second after qualifying sixth last year but said it's hard to say whether he can repeat that feat this year.
"Hopefully in the race tomorrow, we will be stronger," Raikkonen said.
Much like the first three races, Raikkonen won't get much help from his teammate Romain Grosjean who qualified further back in 11th.
Grosjean has struggled to make the adjustment to the softer tires that were introduced this year, acknowledging Thursday he can't simply change his driving style to suit them. As a result, he has finished no higher than eighth in the first three races.
"We do need for points," Grosjean said. "The team has high expectation and I want to be part of those high expectations."
Grosjean insisted the season was not lost, although he said it was frustrating to be fighting in the middle of the grid just year after he was passing the likes of Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel early in the season.
"If the car worked well, it should be fine," he said. "Confidence is there. I've won with every type of car in driving. We just need to put everything together."
The team has brought in a new chassis for Grosjean this week, though he seemed to think they wouldn't sort out all their problems by Sunday.
"We thought it was getting better in China but the race proved it was not that much better," he said. "We are working on it, trying to understand as much as we can. We will see here. We keep on working and progressing, seeing if we manage to get on top of the tires, track, car and driver."