Rewind back to January 2007: Kimi Raikkonen’s first ever pre-season test in Ferrari-red overalls was taking place. It was also in Spain and he went on to win the world championship. Seven years later he has not only chosen to race with the same number, but he is back testing with the Italian team, once again in Spain.
Kimi’s start to the season at Ferrari today was a totally different story to back in 2007, however, a story of new challenges, a new car, a new engine… and patience. A lot of it. “We’ve been working very hard to get the car ready; we expect to learn many things,” he said with typical understatement.
As is his wont, Kimi ambled from the team motorhome across into the garage with sunglasses firmly fixed in place, even though the sun still hadn’t broken through the early morning clouds. He looked calm, he looked untroubled, he looked… well, he looked Kimi. Another day at another office, same Raikkonen.
After a slow start to the morning, Kimi finally drove out of the garage at 09:40, with the Ferrari V6 engine breaking the silence. Pit-limiter off, up the hill to Turn 1, and rosso corsa Kimi was back.
Unfortunately, his installation lap didn’t last long. Just as he was getting to the back straight, he was stopped by his engineers – just a precaution. Funnily enough, it was just before the back straight at Turn 5, which is named after double 250cc Motorcycle World Champion Sito Pons… Stating his intentions, perhaps?
To give an idea of what Kimi’s F14 T sounds like, when his car came to a halt on track, the sound of an engine revving could still be plainly heard. Two bright red Ferrari road cars roared past near the stricken F14 T, making such a similar sound that it was easily confused with the Finn’s engine. It made those who heard it smile when they realised the similarity.
“For sure we want to complete more laps”, Kimi shrugged afterwards. “but its pretty normal that things don’t work when there are so many changes.” You could tell he wanted more, much more. He didn’t take his helmet off when he was dropped off back in the garage, but his eyes said it all: determination to get back in the car again as soon as possible, despite it being a two-hour wait before he was finally in the cockpit again.
After another patient wait, in the afternoon Kimi seemed to be getting to grips with the car and going out for longer stints than just the one installation lap. Even though he was still way off last year’s fastest lap here in Jerez (a 1:18.148 set by himself), his times were improving rapidly and he appeared to be gaining in confidence. He finally eased past Lewis Hamilton’s fastest time and topped the time sheet with a 1:27.104. More importantly on this first day he also completed more laps than anyone (31).
“Lap times don’t mean anything right now, we just want to run as much as we can,” he said. “It will take a little bit of time before we can run at 100 per cent all the time and not have issues, but we have started pretty okay.”
By Tabatha Valls Halling in Jerez