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Qualifying a pain in the back for Raikkonen

Lotus F1 Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland walks in the pit lane during the Singapore F1 Grand Prix at the Marina Bay street circ
Lotus F1 Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland walks in the pit lane during the Singapore F1 Grand Prix at the Marina Bay street circ

By Patrick Johnston

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Kimi Raikkonen vowed to be on the Singapore Grand Prix starting grid after gritting his teeth and qualifying his Lotus in 13th place on Saturday with the help of pain-killing injections for a sore back.

"This morning I couldn't really drive so we didn't do what we were supposed to do but that's how it goes. We'll see what we can do tomorrow," the 2007 champion told reporters after qualifying.

If that sounded non-committal, a later team release was more positive.

"It's not the first time I've driven with a problem and it probably won't be the last time either, but I'll be on the grid tomorrow and we'll try to get the maximum from where we are at the start," he said.

Raikkonen, who told reporters on Thursday that one of the reasons he was returning to Ferrari next season was because Lotus had not paid him his full salary, did not linger in the paddock after the session.

Lotus team principal Eric Boullier, who reiterated that his driver would be paid in full and questioned why the Finn had gone public with the salary issue, said the team would be keeping a close eye on Raikkonen's condition.

"Obviously with the injection from the painkillers he doesn't feel anything (now) but I think we will have to monitor it overnight and we'll see tomorrow," he said.

DIFFICULT WEEKEND

The Frenchman recognized it had been a difficult weekend for Raikkonen, although Lotus could feel happy with his team mate Romain Grosjean qualifying third.

"I think maybe the back pain was something on top of everything, which didn't help," he said.

"In some ways the timing is not the right one and it's never good to go public in these kind of things," he added, when asked about the money situation.

"We owe him money, that's true. Obviously we had to give priority to some other people first and I have to manage our cash flow.

"There is no drama, the budget is covered and guaranteed and it's just a cash flow issue. It's a little bit sad in some way but we have to deal with it and build up."

While Raikkonen's return to Ferrari has been a hot topic at the Marina Bay Street Circuit this week, Grosjean has quietly but effectively gone about his work.

The Frenchman was banned for the Italian Grand Prix last year after being blamed for a number of crashes in his debut season but he showed his growing maturity as he qualified for Sunday's race behind championship leader Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull and Mercedes' Nico Rosberg.

GOOD STRATEGY

"This morning went pretty well and in qualifying we had a very good strategy," Grosjean said.

"The prime tires were less quick than we expected but then we had a very good set of tires for Q2 and Q3 and we did manage to have a good run. It is good, could have tried to have a go at Nico but not quite as good at the first few corners."

Asked if his performance could help him cement the position as number one driver at the team next season, Grosjean was non-committal.

"I don't really care. The relation with Kimi has always been, not very speaky (talkative), and I just do my best on my own," the 27-year-old said.

"I like the team and I'm sure they are quite happy with the way we work so far and, yes, just focus on what we have to do and see in the future."

Boullier said his compatriot should aim for a fifth podium finish at Sunday's race in the South-east Asian city state.

"The car looks good and Romain is on it as well," he said. "First we have to expect to be on the podium tomorrow and if he can obviously go between the two Red Bulls it will be nice."

(Reporting by Patrick Johnston; Editing by Alan Baldwin)

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