Former Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn has hailed Kimi Raikkonen's 'exceptional' comeback this season to clinch the world championship in the final round and predicted the Italians will be even stronger next year.
Brawn, who left Ferrari a year ago to go on a sabbatical and has yet to confirm his plans for next year, told autosport.com today he was particularly impressed by Raikkonen's work ethics and his loyalty to Ferrari, which the Briton admitted reminds him of Michael Schumacher.
"I was particularly pleased for Kimi because he struggled a little at the beginning to adapt to the new team, car and particularly the Bridgestone tyre characteristics," Brawn told autosport.com.
"What impressed me was that he worked with his engineers, understood the issues, got on top of the situation and, importantly and in the style of Michael, he did it in a quiet way within the privacy of the team.
"His performance in the second half of the season was exceptional."
The Briton also complimented Raikkonen's teammate Felipe Massa, saying the Brazilian showed impressive pace over the season.
"He also made great progress, and if it wasn't for a few reliability issues, he would have been a challenger at the end," Brawn said. "His pace is impressive and he is also someone who is willing to work for the team.
"So, a wonderful result from and for everybody."
Brawn said he was not surprised the team were able to bounce back from their problems at the start of the season - and from the major reshuffle that took place a year ago.
"Obviously all of the changes at Ferrari in the winter of 2006 caused some disturbance and it took a little while for everyone to settle down to the new regime," he said.
"But the people involved had been carefully chosen and ultimately they have all shown they are more than capable of doing the job.
"Within the team we had a motto, 'Non mollare mai' which literally means 'we never give up' - something they have fully demonstrated."
Brawn, who is widely rumoured to be returning with Ferrari as team chief - with Jean Todt remaining as CEO of the Ferrari company - also warned that the Italian team will only get better on the back of the 2007 season.
"The team will learn from their mistakes and undoubtedly be stronger next year," he stated. "So therefore lots of reasons for Ferrari to be proud of this season and optimistic for the future."