Kimi Raikkonen repeatedly dodged requests to compare the potential of Ferrari competing with Red Bull and Mercedes ahead of this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix, but admitted that he was happy with his opening day after posting the second fastest time in late-night practice.
Having been only sixth – at the tail of the 'big three' - in FP1, the Finn found the necessary tweaks to his SF16-H during the break between sessions and, after taking his turn to set the FP2 pace, ended the night a close second to Mercedes' Nico Rosberg. Moreover, he was 0.7secs faster than Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel, a renowned Marina Bay specialist.
“It was okay,” Raikkonen said of his day, “The morning [sic] was a bit difficult but, in second practice was OK and the car felt pretty good. I don't really have much to complain about. I felt that we can still improve some things for tomorrow and see what the others do, but so far it was not too bad. Everything worked well [in FP2] and the car was handling pretty good, so that's not so bad.
“If you have a good feeling with car, that makes all the difference here,” he added, referring to the gap between the two Ferraris, “In FP1, it wasn't so great, so the lap time is not going to be so nice when you don't trust the car. In FP2, the car felt nice and the lap time came quite easily, so far so good, but tomorrow it's another day.”
Having been unable to live with the pace of the Mercedes for much of the season, Singapore represents a rare chance for Ferrari – and Red Bull for that matter – to realistically think about a victory, but Raikkonen refused to be drawn on either his or the Scuderia's chances after just two sessions on track.
“Today we had a pretty okay feeling but, for sure, we can improve still for tomorrow and push a bit harder on the lap,” he allowed, “Obviously, tomorrow, we will see where everyone is [but] it probably wasn't too bad a start and we will go from there.
“It's only first practice [but], obviously, if you get car right, it's a lot easier to go fast around this track. We'll try to improve and do a good job tomorrow, but this was only the first day of practice. Of course, it's going to be difficult, but we hope for the best and hopefully we can have the speed to challenge. Hopefully, it will be a three-way fight. We had a good feeling so we can definitely do something this weekend. That doesn't mean we're going to be fast enough tomorrow, but we'll give it our best and hopefully we can be starting the race from the front. Those three tenths we, for sure, can get, pushing a bit harder here and there.”
Asked what improvements he needed to make for Saturday, Raikkonen was his usual droll self…
“The same as usual for us to go fast...,” he shrugged.