Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne says he has seen a new Kimi Raikkonen emerge this year and believes the 2007 Formula One world champion could be set for a ‘phenomenal’ 2016.
“If I can give you some encouraging information, it’s that I have seen a huge change in Kimi during the season,” he told a pre-Christmas news conference at Ferrari’s headquarters. “We were talking with some of our colleagues over the past three or four days, and we are beginning to look at a different Kimi.”
Marchionne said the 36-year-old Finn, now a proud father, was a lot more settled in his private life and that would help him be more competitive. Raikkonen ended the 2015 season in fourth place overall and with 150 points, compared to team mate and four times champion Sebastian Vettel who finished third with 278 points after winning three races.
The Finn—who had looked in danger of losing his seat but ended up being retained for another season—improved steadily over the year, however.
Marchionne compared him to a movie whose second half was better than the first and said he expected Raikkonen to be more engaged next year. “It happened to Seb. He has had a phenomenal year in his first year and I am expecting that Kimi will rise up to the challenge and have a phenomenal season in 2016,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sergio Marchionne said Fiat Chrysler could bring the Alfa Romeo brand back to Formula One as a competitor to Ferrari. Ferrari’s red cars have carried Alfa Romeo branding already this season.
There were also discussions with Red Bull, that never came to fruition, about possibly using Ferrari engines with Alfa Romeo branding next year. Red Bull ultimately decided to continue with an engine provided by Renault.
Ferrari are due to supply three non-works teams — Swiss-based Sauber, American newcomers Haas and Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso — with their power unit next season, although the latter outfit will use a 2015 version. Ferrari’s late founder Enzo Ferrari started out racing and managing a team for Alfa Romeo before setting up on his own in the late 1930s
The first two Formula One world championships in 1950 and 1951 were won by Italian Giuseppe ‘Nino’ Farina and Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio in Alfa Romeo cars. The company supplied engines in the 1960s and 1970s and returned as a constructor in 1979 before again withdrawing at the end of 1985.
Fiat Chrysler has a 48 billion euro ($52.85 billion) five-year investment plan centred on turning Alfa Romeo, Jeep and Maserati into global brands. Italian car giant Fiat bought Alfa, whose iconic red Spider 1600 model was driven by Dustin Hoffman in the 1967 cult film “The Graduate”, in 1986. Several attempts at reviving the brand have stalled, however, and only about 72,000 Alfas were sold in 2014. Marchionne has said he aims to lift that to 400,000 by 2018. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) sold 10 percent of Ferrari in an initial public offering in October.
Rookie Verstappen the king of overtaking
Teenager Max Verstappen may have been racing his debut Formula One season in 2015 but the Dutchman came out on top in the overtaking stakes, F1 tyre manufacturer Pirelli said.
The 18-year-old managed 49 successful overtaking manoeuvres during the season to edge out his Toro Rosso teammate Carlos Sainz Jr into second on 45. Both were well above the average of 26.8 although the total of 509 overtaking manoeuvres during the season was down 10 percent on 2014 (639).
Malaysia was the most entertaining Grand Prix with 60 while Australia and Singapore both managed just 11 throughout the entire race. That wasn’t even as many as Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel managed all on his own in Canada where he overtook 13 cars on the way from starting 18th on the grid to finishing fifth.
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