Following its worst start to a Formula 1 World Championship campaign in almost three decades, Ferrari may at last be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel in 2009, reckons Kimi Raikkonen – with the updates the Scuderia
has brought to this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix reckoned to be a real step in the right direction.
Though there were no great quantum leaps forward on the timesheets during practice in Barcelona – Raikkonen setting respectively the eleventh and tenth-quickest times in the morning and afternoon running and team-mate Felipe Massa the ninth and 15th, leaving the scarlet duo just twelfth (Raikkonen) and 18th (Massa) in the end-of-day order – that could conceal the full picture.
The underperforming F60 has benefitted from a significant aerodynamic upgrade, and between them Raikkonen and Massa completed no fewer than 110 laps of the Circuit de Catalunya – a track where both have previously triumphed in the top flight – as they put it intensively through its paces. They reported positive conclusions.
“We have definitely made a step forward in performance terms with the car,” affirmed 2007 F1 World Champion Raikkonen. “You can feel a greater level of aerodynamic downforce, and that's what we needed. Sure, it's Friday and it's always difficult to draw conclusions, but the feeling is that we have closed the gap to the top cars.
“Here, just as at the last race, the harder tyre is a bit difficult, while on the softer one we're reasonably good. Tomorrow morning we'll work on qualifying, given that today we concentrated on race preparation. All-in-all, I am happy with how things went today.”
“We have done a good job over the past weeks and the car has improved,” concurred his Brazilian team-mate, “but of course the others haven't been standing around with their hands in their pockets. As from tomorrow, we will see if we have managed to move up the order, because today's classification is difficult to interpret and I reckon it doesn't represent the true pecking order.
“We worked towards Sunday's race. On my final run I had traffic and that cost me a bit of time, but what matters is the performance tomorrow. I will do my best to get through to the final part of qualifying and then aim for a good grid position.”
Indeed, the final part of qualifying is a stage the 2008 drivers' world championship runner-up has failed to attain on two occasions out of four so far this year – even dramatically missing the Q1 cut in Malaysia last month – so Ferrari is well aware that any step forward needs to be a fairly sizeable one. For a squad that has claimed no fewer than 31 crowns in the history of F1, 2009 has to-date been an abject season – but now, finally, it could just be set to turn around.
“We had a very busy day,” underlined the esteemed Maranello-based outfit's team principal Stefano Domenicali. “Having so many new parts on the F60, the worksheet was full and we managed to complete it in its entirety. It was important to be able to work without major reliability problems on an aero package which is pretty much making its track debut today. We managed it, and that's definitely a positive thing when evaluating the day.