Raikkonen: We have turned a corner

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Published: Tuesday 3rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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A buoyant Kimi Raikkonen feels Ferrari may have turned a corner, if the first day in his new car is anything to go by.

Upon his return last year to the team that made him world champion in 2007, Raikkonen could not have envisaged a worse campaign.

Driving a car far from his liking following the tumultuous changes to the regulations, Raikkonen was all at sea, failing to step on to the podium and finishing a lowly 12th in the drivers’ standings.

To rub salt into the Finn’s wounds, former team-mate Fernando Alonso collected 106 points more, whilst champion Lewis Hamilton was over 300 points clear.

The wretched campaign overall for the Maranello marque resulted in wholesale changes at Ferrari over the final months of last year as they installed a new chairman, new team principal, new personnel behind the scenes and a new star driver in Sebastian Vettel who has replaced Alonso.

Crucially for Raikkonen, Ferrari also appear to have a new, seemingly-improved car, with Vettel happy after his first two days behind the wheel on Sunday and Monday, and Raikkonen likewise on Tuesday.

“You usually know if a car is good or not, and this year is a completely different story than last year as I had a good feeling straight away when I went out,” enthused Raikkonen, who was second quickest behind Sauber’s rookie Felipe Nasr.

“The whole team has clearly done a very good job over the winter as it was a positive first day, with a lot of improvements in areas where we had difficulties.

“The whole package is quite a bit better from where we finished last year, and although we’ve still things to improve, it’s definitely a positive start and we have something to work with.”

Remarking on the behind-the-scenes changes, and especially now he is working with a team-mate in Vettel who is also a close friend, the 35-year-old added: “The atmosphere is very good within the team.

“It’s early days, but it’s great to see how good it is, how well people are working together, and with S ebastian we have a good relationship so we can push the team forward.

“Of course, we will try to beat each other on the circuit, but I’m sure we’ll have some fun and hopefully we’ll get some good results this year.”

Raikkonen’s contract is due to expire at the end of this season, but he has confirmed there is an option to extend.

As to whether he remains naturally depends on the feelings of both sides, adding: “It’s up to me and the team to do a good job this year.

“If it goes badly and I don’t sign it, I don’t sign it. It won’t be the end of the world.

“Obviously, the aim is to do well and there’s a big chance. If everybody is happy then I am sure we can do well.

“We’ll see what happens in the future. I don’t worry about it or have to think about it. We’ll find out at some time.”

Nasr topped the timesheet in his Sauber with a lap of one minute 21.545secs, with Raikkonen two tenths of a second off the pace.

Third-quickest Nico Rosberg again racked up the laps, adding 151 to his 157 from the opening day on Sunday for a staggering grand total of just over 1300 kilometres.

“Last year our weakness was reliability which cost us points, so we have focused on that because we want a really reliable car this year,” said Rosberg.

“It’s important to see the problems now, which has been the goal to start off, so anything we find here will be much easier to solve.”

On his first day behind the new Williams, Felipe Massa was fourth, followed by Pastor Maldonado in his Lotus and Toro Rosso rookie Carlos Sainz Jnr.

Daniel Ricciardo only managed 48 laps as an issue resulted in a power unit change early on, whilst McLaren’s Fernando Alonso completed 32 laps before a water cooling leak ended his day.

After managing just 12 laps over the first two days – six apiece for Alonso and team-mate Jenson Button – it was at least a significant improvement.

Racing director Eric Boullier conceded to “huge relief” at seeing Alonso leave the garage on time at the start of the day and then running “faultlessly for a few hours”.

Boullier admits, though, the lack of overall laps so far means McLaren and new engine partner Honda have completed less than 50 per cent of their planned programme so far for this test.

Published: Tuesday 3rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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