Raikkonen beaten but unbowed

Beaten world championship protagonist Kimi Raikkonen has vowed to return stronger than ever with his McLaren-Mercedes team next year after losing the 2003 title by just a handful of points

Raikkonen beaten but unbowed

Raikkonen's runner-up finish in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix, his seventh second place of the season, was not enough to beat Ferrari's Michael Schumacher to the crown.

"I'm confident that we will mount an even stronger title challenge next season," said Raikkonen. "Obviously I'm a bit disappointed not to win the world championship, but we needed a bit of luck to do it, and whilst we were close, we were not close enough. At least we took the battle to the last round. I want to thank everybody in the team, both here and back at base, who have worked so hard during the season and pushed as much as possible."

McLaren put Raikkonen on a two-stop strategy at Suzuka, but he had no answer to Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello who was on a three-stop routine.

"I made an OK start, but we were quite far down the grid after weather affected our qualifying yesterday, which always makes things more difficult," he added. "I struggled with the handling on my last two sets of tyres but continued to push as hard as I could until the very last lap as you never know what might happen in racing, but it was not enough. I have enjoyed the 2003 season and am already looking forward to next year."

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