Raikkonen buoyed by Ferrari’s flying start
For the first time in a long while, the eyes of Formula One focused on Ferrari yesterday, after a third impressive day of testing which left even Kimi Raikkonen – the dourest driver in the sport – upbeat.
The Italian team were at the sharp end of the leaderboard, completing 92 laps on a drizzly day with no obvious reliability problems. After a torrid
2014 for the Finn and Ferrari, Raikkonen, who recently became a father, hailed their positive start. “The whole team has done a very good job over the winter,” he said.
“There are a lot of improvements in areas where we had difficulties last year. Big thanks to the team for building us a good starting point. There are lots of changes but they have been done for the right reasons. The atmosphere in the team is very good.”
Six years without a title has left everyone at Maranello bruised, but the arrival of Sebastian Vettel has lifted spirits. His work rate has impressed, too, and as soon as his duties here were over he returned to Italy to drive in the simulator.
Even Nico Rosberg, who again managed 150 laps in his Mercedes, seemed taken aback by the progress Ferrari have made after a winless 2014.
“Ferrari has been an eye opener the last couple of days,” Rosberg said. “(The lap) times look very encouraging for them, so it will be an interesting year for Formula One.”
Sadly for the new McLaren-Honda partnership however, they have not been turning heads: the car has barely been on track long enough for anyone to notice.
After 12 laps in two days, there were signs of improvement yesterday morning as Fernando Alonso emerged from the garage at 9am on the dot.
He completed 32 laps, though a remarkable 14 seconds off the pace, before another mechanical issue intervened. They abandoned the day’s running at lunchtime in the hope that Jenson Button can make up lost ground today.
Eric Boullier, McLaren’s racing director, seemed relieved to have some mileage on the board but conceded the team had completed “less than 50 per cent” of their targets for this test.
Although Mercedes marched on, there was a glimmer of encouragement for the opposition when the spectators were treated to the rare sight of Rosberg coming to a halt. Still, they remain the overwhelming favourites.
It is all the more disappointing for Mercedes and Rosberg therefore that this year’s German Grand Prix remains in serious doubt. Bernie Ecclestone, F1’s supremo, revealed last night that there would be a decision by the weekend, while Rosberg said he was alarmed at the prospect of his home country being off the calendar.
“It’s really sad for me and the German fans to hear that nothing is confirmed yet for 2015,” he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)