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Raikkonen plays down impact of Allison exit

Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain smiles at a press conference after the qualifying session for the Chinese F1 Grand Pri
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain smiles at a press conference after the qualifying session for the Chinese F1 Grand Pri

By Alan Baldwin

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Kimi Raikkonen has played down any setback to his Formula One championship hopes as a result of the departure of Lotus technical director James Allison.

"For me it doesn't really make a difference," the 2007 champion, second in the standings after four of the 19 races, told reporters at the Spanish Grand Prix on Thursday.

"I cannot tell if it will make a difference in one week or in one year, or if it won't make a difference at all. It's not like it suddenly happened one day," added the taciturn Finn, who won the season-opener in Australia in March.

"People have discussed it and the team will have known it was coming for a while. So it's not like we woke up and it's different to what it was when we went to sleep."

Lotus announced on Wednesday that the highly rated Allison was leaving and had been replaced internally by engineering director Nick Chester.

The move was seen as a blow to Raikkonen, coming on the eve of the first race of the European season and at a time of intense development before teams begin to switch their focus to the 2014 cars.

Allison has been linked to most of the top teams, but particularly Ferrari, in paddock speculation.

The Briton worked for Ferrari during the years of dominance with Michael Schumacher and was then at Renault - the team that is now Lotus - when Ferrari's current driver Fernando Alonso won his two titles there in 2005 and 2006.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said on Wednesday that the speculation was no more than that and Alonso was non-committal on Thursday.

"I don't really have an opinion on that," the Spaniard said when asked how highly he rated Allison and whether he wanted to work with him again.

"He will chose what he prefers. He may chose to stay at home. I don't know. We just know the news from yesterday and we don't have any more news."

Alonso pointed out also that Allison was also at Renault with him in the 2008 and 2009 seasons when their car was less successful.

"But we saw the Lotus car in the last two years and it's no secret that he's one of the top men here and we will see what future he has," added the double champion.

(Editing by John Mehaffey)