Formula One: Ferrari boss Marchionne sees 'phenomenal' Raikkonen in 2016

Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne.
Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne. PHOTO: REUTERS

ROME (REUTERS) - 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 Maranello headquarters on Monday. "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.