Kimi Raikkonen insists that Ferrari will continue to be a threat in F1 despite the unfortunate exit of technical director James Allison ahead of the annual summer break.
Allison left the team ostensibly to be closer to his UK-domiciled family following the sudden death of his wife in March, but also departed amid rumours of clashes with team boss Maurizio Arrivabene and reports that president Sergio Marchionne was insisting on sitting in on technical meetings. Sebastian Vettel has already admitted that the Briton's exit would be a loss that Ferrari would have to overcome, but Raikkonen remained confident that the Scuderia would cope with upheaval of engine specialist Mattia Binotto taking over as the head of technical matters.
“Obviously, changes in the middle of the year sometimes work, sometimes they don't, but I think, looking at the big picture, we'll be fine,” the Finn claimed, “We have a lot of good people that know what they're doing, but it takes time to find the right position for everybody. The people that in charge now have been with the team a long, long time and they know exactly how it works. I have full confidence in what they're doing and, if we're not there right now, it's not because we don't have good people. We have to work harder and we'll be fine – but it takes time.”
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Binotto's first task will be helping Ferrari regain its position as primary challenger to championship leader Mercedes, having been overtaken by Red Bull in the pre-break standings. With nine races remaining on the 2016 schedule, beginning in Belgium this weekend, the two teams are separated by 14 points, but Raikkonen is not expecting an immediate role reversal
“Obviously, I'd be happy if we start winning as soon as we can but we want to maximise our own stuff and, if that's enough, great,” he reflected, “We try to improve things all the time, the areas we know we're not strong enough. It's the same story as in the earlier races. The break doesn't change the whole thing – we know where we have to improve, but it's not going to happen overnight. The other teams don't stop improving either.”
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Having struggled to match Red Bull at Hockenheim before the break, Raikkonen is not sure whether Spa will play to the Scuderia's strengths, despite having been a winner there in the past.
“It's impossible to say today,” he said on the eve of opening practice at the Belgian circuit, “I expect, or at least I'm hoping, to be closer to the front than we were in the last race, but who knows? It's a completely different circuit, the weather looks like it will be nice, so let's see how it feels tomorrow. It's hard to say after the break. We can see certain things in our data but we still expect the others to be fast too. That's not going to change suddenly. We have to do our maximum and hopefully that will be enough to bring us good results.
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“It's difficult to say if here the gaps between the top teams are going to be bigger or smaller, but hopefully we're are in a position to fight. I hope the car will suit the circuit, but it's never straightforward. Spa is more like an older circuit, like Monza. It's completely different, some uphill sections, some downhill too and the atmosphere is different than in a new circuit, that is purposely built. This gives a different feeling and, in my view, it's a very nice circuit.
“It hasn't really changed a lot – a bit in the first corner and the last chicane, but apart from that it's always been the same – but, like in any circuit you have to be fast. I don't think there are any special things, you get the car balance correctly and it's going to help.”
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