Formula One’s world champion, who also leads this year’s drivers’ standings by three points, was fastest in both practice sessions at the Circuit de Catalunya yesterday.
Ferrari star Raikkonen shaved the morning period by just 0.050secs from teammate Felipe Massa as the Italian team totally dominated their rivals early on.
In the afternoon’s 90-minute session, when the teams run heavier fuel loads, Raikkonen was again narrowly out in front, but with a far different order behind the Finn.
Renault gave their fans something to cheer as Nelson Piquet was second quickest, just 0.084secs behind Raikkonen, closely followed by double world champion teammate Fernando Alonso.
The Williams of Kazuki Nakajima was fourth in the pecking order, with Massa - winner last time out in Bahrain – in fifth.
As in the morning, David Coulthard was again eighth, with Lewis Hamilton down in 11th in his McLaren and looking far from happy with his afternoon’s work. Hamilton had been third fastest behind the Ferraris at the end of the morning session, but was 0.750secs down on Raikkonen, with even Force India’s Adrian Sutil ahead of him in 10th.
There was little joy for Hamilton’s teammate Heikki Kovalainen as he suffered a gearbox oil pump problem in the first session, and an accelerator pedal steering issue in the second.
The latter forced the engine to automatically cut out, leaving him stranded on track after completing just eight laps.
Jenson Button was 15th for Honda, whilst unsurprisingly the Super Aguris of Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson were again at the rear, although they are fortunate to be on track at all.
The future of Super Aguri has been up in the air over the last 10 days since the collapse of a rescue deal, spearheaded by the Magma Group, and involving Dubai International Capital.
Team owner Aguri Suzuki has since been involved in round-the-clock negotiations with potential investors in the hope of saving his cash-strapped team.
Super Aguri are understood to be £50m in debt, racked up in just over two years in Formula One, with the bulk of that figure owed to engine suppliers Honda.
The Japanese manufacturing giants have stated they are no longer prepared to support what is effectively their B-team as they now wish to concentrate on their own F1 programme.
But it is understood that with the clock ticking, Honda Japan have stepped in to support Suzuki for one race only to spare the team the embarrassment of pulling out mid-weekend.
Meanwhile, the president of Spain’s motor racing federation is adamant “four or five yobs” will not be allowed to wreck this weekend’s Grand Prix.
The Circuit de Catalunya came under scrutiny for all the wrong reasons earlier this year when Lewis Hamilton suffered racial abuse during winter testing. But RFEDA boss Carlos Gracia insists there will no repeat of such incidents this weekend.