Ferrari in optimistic mood after Vettel and Raikkonen make strong start in F1 testing



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JEREZ, Spain — The pre-season signs are encouraging so far for a Ferrari team reeling from a terrible year in 2014, when poor results went hand-in-hand with internal disputes.

New signing Sebastian Vettel was fastest in the first two days of Formula One testing in southern Spain, and teammate Kimi Raikkonen continued that good form with the second fastest time in Jerez on Tuesday.

"The whole package is quite a bit better from where we finished last year. We've improved in all areas," Raikkonen said after Tuesday's testing. "This year is completely different."

Ferrari failed to win a race last year — the first time since 1993 — and finished fourth in the constructors' championship, a massive 485 points behind Mercedes. Fernando Alonso finished down in sixth place in the drivers' championship — with just two podium finishes — while Raikkonen was 12th, managing none.

It wasn't good enough for a team of Ferrari's stature, and a traumatic year saw three different team principals, while Sergio Marchionne replaced Luca Di Montezemolo as president.

Stefano Domenicali resigned as team principal in April of last year and in stepped Marco Mattiacci. But he was soon replaced by Maurizio Arrivabene.

"Changes have been made but for the right season," Raikkonen said. "Everyone is pushing really hard and the feeling is good within the team."

Alonso was upset by Mattiacci's comments at the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi last November, when he said Ferrari had signed Vettel because it wanted a driver with the "utmost motivation and commitment."

After five testing seasons with Ferrari, Alonso thought those comments were unfair and hit back, adding that he had also rejected the offer of a new contract before deciding to join McLaren — weakening Mattiacci's position. Two-time F1 champion Alonso had not won a race for Ferrari since the Spanish Grand Prix in May, 2013.

Alonso's relationship had also been tense with Domenicali toward the end. Domenicali publicly rebuked Alonso for making sarcastic comments about Ferrari's underperforming car after the Hungarian GP in July, 2013.

While Arrivabene does not expect Ferrari to end its seven-year wait for a title, he wants at least two GP wins.

"It's too early to talk about results," the 35-year-old Raikkonen said. "But we're going in the right direction, for sure."

Raikkonen, the 2007 F1 champion, insists he is fired up — despite nearing the end of his career and being in the last year of his contract.

"If I didn't have motivation I wouldn't be here," the Finnish driver said. "There's an option on the contract. If it goes badly and I don't sign it, I don't sign. It's not the end of the world."

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