Felipe Massa, left, and Kimi Raikkonen believe McLaren
will be their main challenger [GALLO/GETTY]
Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa think McLaren will be their main challengers again this year despite the loss of Fernando Alonso to Renault.

Raikkonen won last season's world championship by one point from McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Alonso with Ferrari claiming the constructors' title after McLaren were stripped of all their team points in a spying scandal.

Alonso fell out with McLaren after one season and has returned to Renault, who struggled last year having powered the Spaniard to the world title in 2005 and 2006.

"For sure McLaren will be challenging us like last year. But we need to wait for the first two races to get exactly the right idea," Raikkonen told a news conference at Ferrari's winter ski retreat in northern Italy.

"(With Alonso) it all depends on how good a car Renault can make. For sure he can drive fast."

Alonso has been replaced at McLaren by former Renault driver Heikki Kovalainen before the season-opening race in Melbourne on March 16.

Raikkonen believes his Finnish compatriot can compete but hinted it might be better for McLaren to avoid a repetition of last season where team mates Hamilton and Alonso had a bitter battle for the title.

"I think for sure Kovalainen will be good. I'm happy for him. At McLaren last year they were both fighting for the championship which made it a bit more complicated," he said.

Raikkonen left McLaren for Ferrari before the start of last season and the Finn was coy about his reasons for moving and the differences between the two teams.

"The biggest difference is this is an Italian team. Everyone has a different way of working. But for sure where I am now I am happy. I probably don't want to get into those things as some people might get upset," he added.

Brazilian Massa, who finished fourth in the standings last season, is intrigued to see how Hamilton fares after the Briton led the championship for much of his rookie season last year before inexperience cost him in the final races.

"His first year in Formula One he went very fast. Based on what he learnt, I don't know what happened in the last two races. It was not good to have an incredible season and finish in the way he did," Massa said.

Source: Agencies