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Motor Racing

Raikkonen welcomes Fisichella to Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen has hailed new team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella as an "expert driver" who can help guarantee Ferrari third place in this year's Formula One constructors' championship.

Raikkonen is not a man who tends to willingly dish out praise, and third is ordinarily not a target Ferrari aim for.

But the Finn feels with Fisichella on board the team can push for the best-of-the-rest tag this season behind championship-leading Brawn GP and close rivals Red Bull Racing.

Italian Fisichella was confirmed as replacement for the inept Luca Badoer last week, stepping in for the final five races of this year after being released from his contract with Force India, starting on home soil this weekend with the Italian Grand Prix.

"I've a new team-mate, Giancarlo Fisichella. I have always got along very well with him," remarked Raikkonen of the 36-year-old Roman.

"He's one of the most expert drivers, and we will give our best to help Ferrari retain third place in the constructors' championship."

In the absence of Felipe Massa for the last three races, Raikkonen has been a one-man show for Ferrari, claiming 24 points, including victory last time out in Belgium.

If this is to be Raikkonen's last season with the team, as is being widely speculated, he is certainly going out with a flourish.

Victory on Sunday at Monza, a circuit where he has never triumphed in eight previous attempts, and in a Ferrari, would certainly cement his status with the tifosi - the team's ardent fans.

"After winning in Belgium we want to carry on like this over the last few races, trying to stay on the podium," said the 2007 world champion whose victory was his first for 26 races.

"The success at Spa was very important for the team. I could see the guys in front of the podium and understood just how much the victory meant to them, especially in such a difficult season.

"It was great for me to listen to the Finnish and Italian national anthems after such a long time, and it would be excellent to repeat it again before the end of the season."

On Ferrari's home soil would be the ideal venue, with Raikkonen adding: "It's one of the most important GPs of the year.

"Racing at Monza in front of our fans, with all the Prancing Horse flags waving, is a fantastic feeling, and it would be great to give them satisfaction.

"I've never won a race in Italy, but I have always liked racing at Monza, and although for me there's no extra pressure, I know how much the team wants to have a great race here.

"It will be a difficult weekend, but I can promise the fans we will give our best as usual."