Kimi Raikkonen says Ferrari F1 team closer to Mercedes in race trim
Kimi Raikkonen believes Ferrari has closed the gap to world champions Mercedes in terms of race pace and is now capable of fighting at the front in Formula 1.
The Scuderia was the fourth best team in 2014, trailing Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams, but it showed a step forward in winter testing and converted that form in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Sebastian Vettel finished third, while Kimi Raikkonen was set to come home at least fifth before a problem caused by damage from a cross-threaded wheel nut sent him into retirement.
In qualifying, Vettel and Raikkonen were fourth and fifth behind Felipe Massa’s Williams but both felt the car was capable of third, behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
"I believe in the race, we are not far from Mercedes," said Raikkonen. "I’m sure we can be up there and fight at the front.
"Obviously it depends on the race and what they do, but we had too many things not going our way in the race.
"Even with the damage on the floor at the rear and also the end plate got damaged in the second pit stop, the car was still fast.
"I strongly believe we have a good race car, a good car over one lap.
"It is obviously not fast enough yet but I think the gap in the race is much smaller than qualifying.
"We have to improve in qualifying as Mercedes is ahead of us by some margin."
Australian GP: Ferrari escapes Kimi Raikkonen pit release penalty
Ferrari has escaped punishment from the Formula 1 stewards for releasing Kimi Raikkonen from his second Australian Grand Prix pitstop with the left-rear wheel not properly attached.
Raikkonen stopped at Turn 4 on his out-lap after the problem – caused by damage from a cross-threaded nut at an earlier stop – was detected, costing him a likely fifth-place finish.
But while unsafe releases usually lead to teams being punished, FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer accepted that the car was not sent out of the pits in an unsafe condition.
One of the crew on the left-rear corner of the car did signal that there was a problem when Raikkonen’s car was released.
But the stewards, including Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen, deemed that Ferrari had monitored this situation closely and stopped the car as soon as the data and Raikkonen confirmed there was a definite problem.
"The team explained that the system used to monitor the pitstops gave no indication that the car was in an unsafe condition when released and the team caused the driver to stop immediately [once] the problem was apparent from the driver and telemetry.
"The team had paid close attention to the telemetry after the actions of the team members involved in the pitstop and further that the FIA technical delegate accepted the car was not in an unsafe condition when released.
"The stewards took no further action."
Team principal Maurizio Arrivabene was seen talking with the pit crew after the incident, which he stressed was primarily to ensure the team remained focused.
"I went down into the box first of all to calm them down because I didn’t want them to panic," he said.
"Second, I was asking the mechanics what had happened and if he could explain it to me.
"I simply said to him ‘calm down, be focused, don’t worry’".
Raikkonen’s race was also affected by minor damage from a first-corner incident triggered when he was hit by Carlos Sainz Jr’s Toro Rosso.
The slowing Ferrari then got into a three-way contact with Felipe Nasr and Pastor Maldonado as both tried to drive around it, sending Maldonado spinning into the barriers.
"I got hit by Sainz on the rear wheel, the floor got damaged and the rear," said Raikkonen.
"The car went into anti-stall because of that, then obviously I was slow before I could get the gear in, then I got hit by the Sauber quite heavily so it damaged the front wing, but it was the Toro Rosso of Sainz that started everything."
Sainz admitted responsibility for the incident.
"I just know that I braked a tiny bit too" late, probably a bit too encouraged by the great start I got, and unfortunately I hit one of the Ferraris. I’m sorry for that. But lesson learned," he said.
Australian GP: Lewis Hamilton beats Nico Rosberg to win
Lewis Hamilton began the defence of his Formula 1 world championship with a commanding victory in the Australian Grand Prix, as Sebastian Vettel began his Ferrari career with a podium.
Hamilton led away from pole in Melbourne and only momentarily lost the lead to Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg during the pitstop sequence before securing the 34th win of his career.
Rosberg crossed the line second, 1.3 seconds adrift, as Mercedes picked up where it left off last season with a dominant performance in which the team finished 33s clear of the field.
Vettel bided his time before jumping Williams’s Felipe Massa at the mid-race pitstops by going longer to take third and confirm Ferrari’s improved pace.
Just 15 cars started the season-opening race, after both McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat stopped on the way to the dummy grid with mechanical problems.
The field was further depleted after just a few corners, when Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was clipped by Carlos Sainz Jr’s Toro Rosso at Turn 1.
That nudged the Ferrari into Felipe Nasr’s Sauber, which then ricocheted into Pastor Maldonado, spinning the Lotus driver into the barriers and out of the race.
This brought out the safety car and Lotus’s misery was compounded after just one lap when Romain Grosjean pitted before being pushed back into the garage having had a power issue on the formation lap.
Rookie Felipe Nasr provided Sauber with a sensational end to what has been a difficult weekend, which saw the team involved in a legal battle with Giedo van der Garde, as he finished a brilliant fifth.
It was an impressive debut for the Brazilian, who was 12s clear of home favourite Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull.
Nasr’s team-mate Marcus Ericsson, who started 16th, pulled off a late move on Sainz at Turn 13 to finish eighth for the Swiss team, which failed to score a single point last season.
Nico Hulkenberg scored points for a Force India team that managed just two-and-a-half days of pre-season testing because of delays with the production of the 2015 chassis as the German finished seventh.
Sainz crossed the line ninth to score points on his debut, having lost a lot of time with a slow pitstop, while Force India’s Sergio Perez, who had a messy race, closed out the top 10.
The Mexican spun, dropping to the back of the field, and then found himself facing the wrong way when he clumsily hit McLaren’s Jenson Button when attempting an opportunistic pass at Turn 3.
Button narrowly missed out on giving McLaren-Honda a remarkable points finish as he crossed the line 11th – and last.
However, it was the first time the team had managed to complete a race distance with its new car, following a pre-season littered with problems.
Raikkonen looked on course to finish fourth, but at his second stop his Ferrari team failed to fit the left-rear tyre properly.
The Finn rejoined, but pulled off the track a few corners later and retired with his engineer saying "sorry, Kimi" on team radio.
Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen, who became Formula 1’s youngest driver by taking the start, retired when running ninth with smoke pluming from the rear of the car.
RESULTS – 58 LAPS:
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1 Lap|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India/Mercedes||1 Lap|
|8||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber/Ferrari||1 Lap|
|9||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso/Renault||1 Lap|
|10||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1 Lap|
|11||Jenson Button||McLaren/Honda||2 Laps|
|-||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso/Renault||Retirement|
|-||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren/Honda||Not started|
|-||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull/Renault||Not started|
|9||Carlos Sainz Jr.||2|
Australian GP: Vettel, Raikkonen say their errors hampered Ferrari
Ferrari Formula 1 team-mates Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen both reckoned third place on the Australian Grand Prix grid was within reach.
The German and Finn were edged out for best-of-the-rest behind Mercedes in the closing stages of the session by Williams driver Felipe Massa.
Both Ferrari drivers reckoned that small errors on their part had proved decisive.
Vettel, who lined up fourth, thought he should have done a better job on his first set of tyres in Q3.
"Felipe nailed the lap. I think it was in reach on the first set, and ideally it should have been a bit quicker, but it wasn’t," he said.
"That was down to me. The second shot in terms of strategy we could have done things differently, but all in all it was a very good result to have both cars in the top five."
Fifth-fastest Raikkonen said he had lost valuable time when he got Turn 3 slightly wrong on his final lap.
"I had quite a big mistake, three tenths in corner three, and messed it up the next two corners," he explained.
"The rest of the lap was pretty good and I caught up with the laptime, but it was pretty much done.
"We should have been in P3 but that is how it is. And probably we would have been one second behind Mercedes."
Raikkonen remains upbeat about Ferrari’s grand prix prospects following a strong race run in Friday practice.
"We knew we cannot fight with them [Mercedes] in qualifying, but yesterday we had pretty good long run," he said.
"Tomorrow the weather plays a big part, but like last year we are more confident with the race pace and this year we improve a lot overall.
"So it is a bit disappointing to have a mistake and start in P5, but I think we can still do a good race."
Australian GP: Raikkonen criticises driving as Ferrari shows pace
Kimi Raikkonen lambasted his own driving as Ferrari finished best-of-the-rest behind Mercedes in a Australian Grand Prix practice that Sebastian Vettel called the "smoothest" Formula 1 Friday he could remember.
Vettel and Raikkonen were third and fourth fastest at Albert Park, with Vettel 0.7 seconds slower than the quickest Mercedes of Nico Rosberg in the second session of the day.
Raikkonen finished up more than four tenths slower than his team-mate in practice two, but still lapped fast enough to stay ahead of the Williams of Valtteri Bottas.
The Finn said he was happy with the car but not with his own performance.
"Not an ideal day, [I was] not driving very well, not putting the lap together," Raikkonen admitted.
"We chased the car a little bit on the longer runs and it seems to work a bit better, just tough to put things together.
"We know where we expect ourselves to be and it’s only Friday. We still have work to do. I just have to put things together and drive a good lap and we should be OK."
Ex-Red Bull driver Vettel said the Mercedes drivers were "out of reach" but reckoned the lack of problems encountered by his new team meant Ferrari could feel positive it is in good shape as qualifying approaches.
"I’m sure Mercedes is out of reach, you have to be realistic, but the most important today is that we ran and didn’t have any problems," Vettel said.
"It was very smooth and I don’t remember the last smooth Friday I had like this, so from that point of view it was very good."
Australian GP: Nico Rosberg on top again for Mercedes in practice
Nico Rosberg pipped Mercedes Formula 1 team-mate Lewis Hamilton to the top of the timesheets in the second free practice session for the Australian Grand Prix.
Rosberg ended up exactly one tenth of a second quicker than his team-mate once both had completed their quick runs after switching to the soft-compound Pirellis.
The German had slipped to third overall based on his pace on the mediums thanks to Ferrari pairing Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen bolting on the softs and temporarily taking first and second places.
But at around the halfway point of the session, Rosberg set his fastest time on softs, beating Vettel by 0.715s.
Hamilton then attempted to hit back, but despite setting the fastest time of the session in the middle sector of the Albert Park circuit, could not overhaul his team-mate.
Vettel and Raikkonen held on to third and fourth places, with Raikkonen just over four tenths slower than his team-mate but admitting over the radio that it was "not a very good lap".
Valtteri Bottas was fifth fastest for Williams, 1.568s off the pace, but team-mate Felipe Massa was unable to run thanks to a water leak that was detected ahead of the session.
Red Bull also had only one car running thanks to the need for an engine change on Daniel Ricciardo’s machine.
But team-mate Daniil Kvyat was sixth fastest, albeit 2.319s off the pace and only just ahead of Carlos Sainz, who was the fastest of Red Bull’s ‘B-team’ drivers at Toro Rosso.
Sainz, who also showed well in the first session, again had a strong run, but did suffer a brief spin on the entry to the Turn 15 left-hander with 26 minutes remaining.
Lotus pairing Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean were eighth and ninth fastest, although both endured brief off-track moments early in the session.
Maldonado ran wide onto the grass exiting Turn 15, while Grosjean slid through the gravel at Turn 3.
Nico Hulkenberg completed the top 10 in the lead Force India, 2.776s off Rosberg’s fastest time.
The Sauber team made its first appearance of the weekend after sitting out the opening session amid its court case with Giedo van der Garde.
Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson were the first two drivers to head out onto the circuit, with the former ending up 11th quickest ahead of the second Force India of Sergio Perez.
But Ericsson had a more troubled session thanks to a problem with the left-rear corner cropping up as he exited the final corner.
Ericsson suspected a suspension problem, with the team saying that the wheel was rubbing on some bodywork, and he was unable to return to the track.
After a troubled first session, during which both Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen faced restricted running thanks to an air intake problem, McLaren again struggled.
The Dane, filling in for Fernando Alonso, crashed at Turn 6 on his fifth lap after losing the rear end and being spat into the gravel while attempting to recover.
Magnussen was uninjured, but his crash brought out the red flag for seven minutes while his car was recovered.
Button ended the session 13th, 3.690s off the pace, and one place ahead of the second Toro Rosso of Max Verstappen, whose running was limited to just six laps because of a battery problem.
Only 16 drivers were able to set a time thanks to the problems for Massa and Ricciardo, with Manor pairing Robert Merhi and Will Stevens also not participating.
The Manor team is continuing to work to reinstall software needed to operate the car, a consequence of all of its hard drives being wiped prior to the planned auction of the teams assets that was cancelled once an investor was found.
PRACTICE TWO TIMES:
|6||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull/Renault||1m30.016s||2.319s||27|
|7||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m30.071s||2.374s||41|
|10||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India/Mercedes||1m30.473s||2.776s||30|
|12||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m30.980s||3.283s||32|
|14||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m31.395s||3.698s||6|
Australian GP: Nico Rosberg pips Lewis Hamilton in practice one
Nico Rosberg edged Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to top the first free practice session of the new Formula 1 season by less than half a tenth of a second.
Rosberg’s first serious effort as the teams began their preparations for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix proved enough to top the session.
His best lap of 1m29.557s fell less than two tenths shy of the fastest lap of the entire weekend at last year’s Albert Park race.
Reigning F1 world champion Hamilton languished in the lower half of the top 10 for the first part of the session, before clocking a 1m29.586s best to leap up to second.
No one else could get within a second of the Mercedes duo, but Williams driver Valtteri Bottas got closest, lapping 1.191s slower than Rosberg to finish the session third fastest.
Toro Rosso rookies Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen were fourth and fifth (separated by just 0.053s) for much of the session, before Ferrari new boy Sebastian Vettel split them with a late improvement.
His team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was eighth quickest, just behind the second Williams of Felipe Massa.
Pastor Maldonado began the new Mercedes-powered era at Lotus by setting the ninth fastest time, but team-mate Romain Grosjean failed to record a timed lap after his E23 required a change of its floor.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo recovered from an early hydraulic problem and a brief spin to round out the top 10.
He complained of "aggressive" throttle response from the RB11’s Renault engine, while team-mate Daniil Kvyat was concerned by a lack of assistance from the power unit in slowing the car down under braking.
Kvyat finished the session just a fraction of a second clear of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg, who are both making up for a late start to pre-season testing for Force India.
Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen completed a combined 13 laps for McLaren-Honda, which curtailed its running early once the team discovered an engine problem.
Both McLarens lapped more than two seconds slower than the Force Indias and roughly five adrift of the pacesetting Mercedes.
Amid an ongoing legal wrangle with its former reserve driver Giedo van der Garde, Sauber did not run either of its cars in this session.
The team refused to comment on the exact reason for Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson missing the session when contacted by AUTOSPORT.
Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens also skipped the first practice session of the new season for the revived Manor GP/Marussia squad.
After its 2014 computer hard-drives were ‘wiped’ (ready to be auctioned off when the team was in administration), it was unable to update its software in time for its revised ’14 cars to run.
The team hopes to be ready in time to run in practice two later on Friday.
PRACTICE ONE TIMES:
|4||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m31.014s||1.457s||32|
|6||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m31.067s||1.510s||31|
|10||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m31.570s||2.013s||9|
|11||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull/Renault||1m32.073s||2.516s||18|
|12||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m32.247s||2.690s||22|
|13||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India/Mercedes||1m32.261s||2.704s||19|