This time of year sees Ferrari host its annual ski event at Madonna di Campiglio and on Wednesday race drivers Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen met the press. Naturally there was a lot of attention on Raikkonen, making his official debut with the Scuderia, but as he has yet to drive the car it was down to Massa to talk about on-track progress over the winter.
"We've tested new suspension, there's a new gearbox," the Brazilian explained about the changes. "All us drivers have made technical requests and there are many interesting solutions, many things are going to make the difference so the car is totally different to 2006 which is good, it will be a competitive car. I hope we will win at the start of the championship."
Raikkonen previously visited the Ferrari factory and also spent a day at testing in December, observing Ferrari and Massa at work. After five years with McLaren, how is the Finn acclimatizing to his change of team? "When I first went to the factory and for the test I noticed the atmosphere is different, is very good," Raikkonen commented.
"It's more like a family feeling, even if people are working as hard as they can, doing their best, it's very relaxed and the people are easy to work with so I was very happy and that's really what I expected and what I heard before, so I only have positive things to say. For sure, it's very different from McLaren. For me, it's only going in a positive way, so it's been very pleasant."
In his debut season of competition with Ferrari, Massa scored his first pole position, first podium and his first win, while his second victory came at his home race in Brazil. He finished third overall in the drivers' standings and said that 2006 was very positive. "I learned a lot, I have grown a lot. I am very motivated… I hope to take further steps forward in 2007, fighting for victories from the start."
Raikkonen has come under some scrutiny, being compared to Michael Schumacher, and some people suggest that the way the Finn works will not suit Ferrari. He shrugged it off and said he was going to do things his own way. "Of course, we need to work together as well as we can," he conceded. "We need to change the way we work together."
"I am not Michael Schumacher and the team doesn't expect me to be. They know that I work in a different way and we just need to find the best and most effective way to work together. I don't see any problem with that. When I was at the test, what work I saw was nice and easy going, much easier work than it has ever been in Formula One."
So what do the new teammates think of each other and how will it be on track between them? "He's arrived with his feet on the ground," Massa said in regard to Raikkonen. "He wants to know about the team and the people in the team, so it's positive. It's important to have a good feeling between us."
"It's true that Kimi is very important for the team, and expectations are high. He has shown to be fast but he hasn't won a World Championship. There are two young drivers in the team who want to win and no World Champion so we will be treated equally. It will be the same for both drivers."
It's only been a short acquaintance in the same team but so far Raikkonen seems happy to be working with Massa. "I don't know how quick he will be or how quick I will be against him," Raikkonen said about the Brazilian. "But we have a very good relationship even though we haven't worked together very long. He's very good, easy to work with, a nice guy so I think we will have good fun this year."