Kimi Raikkonen is optimistic he and Lotus can be even stronger in next year's Formula 1 World Championship.
The Finn starred on his comeback season in the sport, winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, claiming seven podiums and finishing the year third in the championship. Raikkonen believes there is still room for he and the Lotus team to improve, however, particularly if they can hit the ground running in 2013.
"I think definitely it is easier now than it was in the beginning of the year, and it should be easier again next year," Raikkonen said. "We scored a lot of points but we know if we could have started the year stronger then probably we would still have been in the championship.
"I know the team next year, I know the business, so it should be an easier start for us. Hopefully we can build it up for next year."
Asked about his success in 2012, Raikkonen said: "It has been OK, but for sure when you start getting good results you want to do it even better; you start expecting yourself to do better.
"We have been quite consistent – not the strongest, but consistent. That kept us in the championship for a long time. First, though, you have to build the car..."
The Finn paid tribute to the atmosphere of Lotus, saying it had contributed to his strong performances over the season.
"I think it is the whole thing together: there are always a lot of people who are involved," he said when asked how beneficial team spirit had proved. "It is team work and everybody tried to do the same thing, do the best we can and I think it has been a good atmosphere – and that helps.
"I always said this team is a bit different from the others I have raced before. It is all about the racing and less the politics, and it is a good place to be."
Raikkonen admitted he had harbored some doubt before his return about his ability to push to the limit, but said such fears were assuaged as soon as he began driving the car.
"I never really thought I would lose it, that it would be more difficult," he explained. "Maybe the biggest question mark was if I could push as much on the limit as before, with a new team and new tires, as things had changed. Since the first test, though, I felt comfortable with it; I was never worried by the racing."