It will be back to business as usual for Kimi Raikkonen in 2009, his employers Ferrari insist – as the Finn bids to re-establish both his battered reputation and Formula 1 World Championship credentials on the back of a desultory 2008 campaign in the top flight.
Raikkonen triumphed just twice last year – and has not stood atop the rostrum since the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona all the way back in April – and as his motivation seemed to flag he found himself routinely out-performed by title-challenging team-mate Felipe Massa, with Ferrari acknowledging that the oft-underestimated Brazilian truly came of age during the season to prove that he too can be a genuine contender for the crown.
With Raikkonen desperate to prove he still has what it takes and Massa keen to gain vengeance for his last lap defeat in the 2008 world championship battle against McLaren-Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, the Scuderia's
team principal Stefano Domenicali is confident that in 2009 both men will be absolutely at the very top of their game.
“As of the next tests in Portimao, Portugal, we'll start comparing ourselves to the other teams,” he explained. “It will be interesting to see where we are and where our competitors are.
“I've met a very fresh and motivated Felipe Massa. He matured a lot over the last season. His strong point over these years was that he always believed in himself. I think he's mentally ready and mature enough to manage the pressure, from inside and outside, and he has a lot of desire.
“Kimi Raikkonen can't wait to get back into the car, and he'll have the possibility at Portimao. He wants to show that he's himself again, after President di Montezemolo's joke that it was his twin brother driving by the end of the season. Kimi has and always had an enormous capacity – knowing how to detach himself. This allows him not to feel any pressure from outside.
“Last year we didn't lose a single point due to mismanagement by our drivers. The team works for both drivers and if we can give them a competitive car – as we hope we do – we won't have any psychological pressure from inside.”
Speaking during Ferrari's annual pre-season skiing break at the Madonna di Campiglio resort in northern Italy, Domenicali also re-iterated the importance of everybody both inside the team and within F1 in general considering the future in an era of such dramatic technological upheaval. Moreover, the Italian underlined the greater than-ever necessity for reliability in 2009, especially given the new F60's somewhat shaky start at Mugello earlier this week [see separate story – click here
“This year I'm very cautious because we're starting with a project which is not an evolution of last year's car,” the 43-year-old stated. “Therefore it will be fundamental to be immediately competitive since we can't evolve during the season, and to invest in reliability and in simulation, which is very useful, because the results can also be used in the road car production.