Ferrari a happy place to work again, says Arrivabene
Maurizio Arrivabene says the atmosphere at Ferrari has improved significantly over the winter but says that has nothing to do with the departure of Fernando Alonso.
Ferrari suffered its first winless campaign since 1993 last season, with two solitary Alonso podiums in China and Hungary. A raft of changes followed, including Arrivabene's appointment as team principal and Alonso's departure to McLaren after five seasons without a title at Ferrari.
Arrivabene puts Ferrari's encouraging start to winter testing down to the changes implemented over the winter, which he highlighted through a joke about the famously unemotional Kimi Raikkonen.
"I saw Kimi smiling yesterday [in Barcelona] - and talking!" Arrivabene joked to reporters during a press conference at the Circuit de Catalunya. "This is the big scoop! I was looking at him and thought 'this is not Kimi' and asked 'Kimi are you OK!?'"
Arrivabene puts this down to a change in environment at Ferrari over the winter.
"Step by step the changes we are making are making a lot of sense. They are helping people to express themselves and themselves and their professional skills. They have been liberated somehow to express the work they were doing before their passion for the team. That was the main change.
"The second one is not really a chance but for me it was a clear objective - bring the team together without any politics, without any parties or any people which were hanging around. Now we are looking all in the same direction and I am quite proud of this. Despite the result if you go into the garage now you are going to see that the atmosphere is different."
That statement and recent comments from Raikkonen that Ferrari is working well as a team this pre-season prompted a question about Alonso, who has a lingering reputation as a potential source of unrest if things are not going his way. However, Arrivabene was quick to refute this idea and said the disharmony at Ferrari last year came from the team's struggles on track.
"In Jerez and here [Raikkonen] said the team is working at a team now, we hear that very cleary. But is it because Alonso created some kind of politics? No, no. I know Fernando very well, we know each other very well, and I don't think it is fair to put the finger on Fernando. It was the overall situation - we were quite under pressure and when people are under pressure they are going to be divided.
"Everybody is trying to cover themselves and this creates a bit of a mess in the team. Accusing Fernando is not my intention - I have a lot of respect for Fernando and we have a good relationship so it's not that, I'm not putting the finger on him."