Kimi Raikkonen is optimistic Ferrari will be in far better shape than of late at Magny-Cours this weekend, but he insists the Prancing Horse must shine in qualifying if it is to gallop and not stutter come race day.

The Finn - who has not triumphed since the opening grand prix of the season in Melbourne back in March - believes the Scuderia has made significant progress in testing at Silverstone last week, though he argues that upward trend was already in evidence a fortnight ago in Indianapolis, when he set the fastest lap of the race.

"Last week was a perfect week," he proclaimed. "We had a very good test at Silverstone - the car was much better than in the races in North America, so I'm really very confident for Magny-Cours. We have new components, above all in the section of aerodynamics, and we have taken a step forward as far as performance is concerned.

"Whether it is enough we will only know in France, when we get out onto the track under the same conditions as our competitors. That is the question mark you always carry with you after testing, but what we know for sure is that we are competitive."

Raikkonen stressed the disappointing results in Montreal and Indianapolis - where he finished respectively fifth and fourth - were largely down to below-par qualifying performances, with neither of the red cars having started on the front row of the grid since Barcelona back at the start of May.

"This year it is fundamental to start from the front row," the 27-year-old urged, "because it is very difficult to drive when you're stuck behind other cars. Unfortunately I've experienced that quite often in the races in 2007, but I'm more and more confident with the F2007.

"We have finally found a good set-up; you could already see that in the race at Indianapolis. Now we have to transfer what we've seen at Silverstone to the next two grands prix."

Raikkonen has yet to stand on the top step of the Formula 1 podium in France - his best results being a brace of second places in 2002 and 2005 - but he is hopeful this year may finally see him break his Magny-Cours duck as Ferrari seek to regain vital lost ground on arch-rivals McLaren.

"It's true I've never finished first here," he confessed, "but I really enjoy driving on this circuit. The tarmac is extremely even and the track offers slow and fast corners; that makes it very challenging.

"Good aerodynamics and good traction for the exits of the slow corners are very important here. Five years ago I came close to victory; I was leading the race, but then I spun off the track due to oil lost by a Toyota and Michael (Schumacher) passed me to win the fifth of his seven titles. I hope this year things will be different. After the first seven races of the season we need to close the gap on our competitors, and we will do our best to achieve that goal right from the start."

 

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