Sebastian Vettel has said that Ferrari re-signing Kimi Raikkonen as his team-mate for 2017 is the 'right thing to do' as the Scuderia attempts to overhaul Mercedes at the top of the F1 tree.
The German has made no secret of his wish to keep an unchanged partnership at Maranello next season, but Raikkonen's position has been the subject of much speculation over the first half of 2016, with the likes of Sergio Perez, Romain Grosjean and Carlos Sainz all being considered as potential replacements for the Finn.
Raikkonen preceded this weekend's British Grand Prix by claiming that he has never driven better in F1, and that his motivation to compete has never been stronger, but Ferrari still surprised the paddock by announcing a one-year extension to his deal within 24 hours.
“I think it's the right thing to do,” Vettel confirmed after the second of Friday's two practice sessions at Silverstone, “There's been a lot of talk but now that all goes to quiet and we can focus on our work.
“I would say that Kimi and myself probably have the least ego problems in the whole paddock, which I think is good for the team. I think we're both pushing very hard. Our primary target is to catch the leaders, in this case Mercedes, so there's plenty of work ahead of us, but we're working in the same direction. On the track, we both try to race hard, as we've shown in the past in the races where we've raced for position. I think that's normal but, outside the car, I think there's no problem.”
Vettel and Raikkonen enjoyed a friendship even before the Finn returned to Ferrari, and the four-time world champion has continually pushed for the partnership to remain unchanged, rather than calling for Ferrari to bring in a young charger as Red Bull has done by pairing Max Verstappen with Daniel Ricciardo.
“We're both pushing hard trying to help the team as much as we can, putting our own interest aside so they don't impact on the team's effort, so I think it was the right call,” Vettel emphasised, “[Kimi] is the least complicated [team-mate], let's put it this way. I think, in general, I got on well with all the team-mates I have had - here and there, I had some difficulties, but that was all politics. [Raikkonen] keeps everything quiet, and our own egos are put aside, which is good for the team.”
Raikkonen pulled level with Vettel in the 2016 standings after claiming a fourth podium of the year in Austria, and the German is under no illusion as to what his team-mate is capable of.
“He's a world champion for a reason, and he could have been a multiple world champion if McLaren had given him a better car,” Vettel suggested, “I think he's one of the most talented drivers we have on the current grid, there's no doubt.”
Vettel was a little less enthusiastic about his day's work at Silverstone, where a gearbox glitch brought the curtain down on an FP1 session that began with him giving Ferrari's 'halo' cockpit surround another trial run, before he bounced back to take fourth place on the afternoon timesheets.
“I think it's a bit mixed this afternoon, but it's quite windy,” he reported, “The beginning was not so good, but I think the long run was okay, so we need to have a look at where we are. We need to do quite a lot of work for tomorrow to improve the car, but this is the baseline.”