Raikkonen encouraged by Ferrari’s early season pace

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He may have started the 2015 Formula 1 season with a retirement at the Australian Grand Prix, but Kimi Raikkonen remains upbeat and hopeful about his chances this year following a big step up from Ferrari over the winter.

2014 went down as Raikkonen’s least impressive year in F1 as he scored just 55 points to finish 12th in the championship, leading to questions about his motivation for racing.

However, the Finn has remained with Ferrari for the new season, and with a number of changes taking place at Maranello over the winter, he has already commented on the improved atmosphere at the team.

This also appears to be translating into a good on-track pace as Sebastian Vettel scored a podium on his Ferrari debut in Australia.

Heading into this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix, Raikkonen believes that Ferrari’s strong race pace could put it back in the fight towards the front of the field, even if Mercedes remains out of reach.

“Obviously we are in a much better position than we were say even at the end of last year so in that way it’s a nice place to be but obviously we still have to improve quite a bit,” Raikkonen said. “We want to be in front and we still don’t have the speed exactly, at least in qualifying, to be there.

“In the race I think we are a bit stronger compared to Mercedes. But I think it will be a fun year, obviously not an ideal start of the year and we got some damage from the start and had those issues in the pit stops but you know it can happen sometimes but at least we had pretty good speed.

“I’m sure we’re going to have strong races and good battles but like I said we still have some work to do to be absolutely where we want to be but we have done a good job so far.”

Raikkonen believes that Ferrari has made progress in a number of departments with the new SF15-T car, and was full of praise for the team that had worked on its development.

“I think it’s the whole package, ” Raikkonen said. “It’s not just the engine we improved. Yes, we improved that a lot but we improved the chassis itself a lot as well. It’s the whole package, you cannot just point to one area that has been improved from last year, it’s the whole thing.

“I think how everybody works and it’s one team and things are going in the right direction and people are pushing and doing a good job. Like I said, it’s still early days. We still have to work hard and improve things but where we started, so far we have done a good job.”