February 20, 2015 / 8:24 PM / in 3 years

Ferrari play down promising test performances

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Ferrari Formula One team principal Maurizio Arrivabene has pledged to run for the hills barefoot if his drivers win four races this season but he does not expect that to happen despite promising signs in testing.

Ferrari Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland drives his car during a testing session at the Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, near Barcelona February 20, 2015. REUTERS/Albert Gea

“Winning two races will be fine. Three will be perfect. Four and I run 100km without shoes to the Maranello hills,” the BBC quoted him as saying on the second day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya on Friday.

Arrivabene, who took over as Ferrari boss in November, said the team had made progress but fighting for the title and beating champions Mercedes remained a tall order.

Ferrari were top in three of the four days in Jerez and second fastest on both days in Barcelona although times at this stage are less important than consistency and getting in plenty of laps.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo was fastest for Red Bull on Friday but only 0.010 quicker than Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

While Ricciardo did 143 laps, Raikkonen completed 90.

“It’s clear the others have really stepped up their game,” said Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg who handed over to world champion team mate Lewis Hamilton in the afternoon.

“The lap times are surprising to us and it seems Ferrari has made the biggest step at the moment.”

There is however a suspicion Mercedes are keeping their powder dry for when it really counts, the season-opener in Australia on March 15.

Neither Mercedes driver was on top form on Friday, with Rosberg suffering lingering back pain from a trapped nerve and Hamilton returning after a fever sidelined him on Thursday.

Hamilton did 89 laps and was fifth fastest, Rosberg 66 and was sixth.

“I’ve felt better but I miss driving so I wanted to get in the car. It’s been good today to get out there and get some laps in,” said Hamilton.

“The first test was just about completing loads of laps and today was the same so I’ve not really started dialing the car into how I’d like to perfect it...but it feels good, similar to last year but better.”

McLaren managed 59 laps with double world champion Fernando Alonso, despite ongoing engine concerns, while Britain’s 2014 GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer made his debut as Lotus test driver and was eighth fastest.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Tony Jimenez

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