SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Kimi Raikkonen has had to watch new team mate Sebastian Vettel make headlines so far this season but the Finn joined the Ferrari party in Friday’s Chinese Grand Prix practice.
Vettel, who joined the Formula One glamor team from Red Bull at the end of last year, has made an immediate impact after going toe-to-toe with dominant Mercedes in Melbourne and winning in Malaysia.
Raikkonen, who talked up the car in pre-season testing, meanwhile suffered bad luck in the first two races.
Botched pit stops ruined his race in Australia before the 2007 world champion battled to fourth place in Sepang after a compromised qualifying session and early puncture.
On Friday, he finally enjoyed a trouble-free run in practice for Sunday’s race and proved more than a match for everyone bar championship leader Lewis Hamilton as he chased the Briton’s Mercedes home in the afternoon session.
The Finn easily outpaced Vettel and showed again that Ferrari are a force to be reckoned with.
“Overall it has been a good day of work. In the afternoon, we had a problem with the brakes but the mechanics did a very good job and managed to fix it, then I was able to go back on track and go on with the program,” Raikkonen told reporters.
The Finn clocked one minute, 37.622 seconds in the afternoon, around four-tenths slower than Hamilton, but held back on making a forecast for the race.
“It’s a bit early to make predictions, we still have things to improve,” he added.
“Tomorrow (Saturday) we have to make sure that everything works and have another good day without any issues or problems and then we’ll do our best for qualifying and the race.”
Vettel, who was third in the morning and fourth in the afternoon, said Mercedes still had the best overall package but was not too concerned about battle ahead.
“Generally I feel happy in the car but I think we can improve it for tomorrow, that is usually what Friday is for,” the German four-time world champion said.
“Fight for pole with Mercedes tomorrow? They were very strong today. For us the most important thing is to make a step forward, there are a few things that we can improve.”
Writing by John O'Brien; Editing by Alan Baldwin