© FOTO ERCOLE COLOMBO

Spanish Grand Prix Practice – Ferrari

Spanish GP – Free practice and testing rolled into one

Montmelo, Barcelona 20 May – In the space of just three hours, divided into today’s two 90 minute free practice sessions, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro completed the sort of mileage normally achieved in a full day of pre-season testing. Even allowing for the fact that at test sessions, each team only uses one car, whereas here we had both Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in action, it is still a significant achievement.
The reason for all this intense activity is the big push on the development of the 150º Italia, which involved bringing the concrete results of all the theoretical work carried out back in Maranello in recent weeks for the real test at the race track. However, unlike a normal test session, here at the Catalunya circuit, the drivers and engineers cannot concentrate simply on the development work: instead they must do that while at the same time remembering they have a qualifying session to tackle tomorrow afternoon and a race the following day. Therefore all the usual Friday jobs, working on set-up and evaluating the Pirelli tyres also had to be squeezed into the very tight schedule. Fernando ended the day fifth fastest, while Felipe was eighth on the time sheet, the Brazilian surviving an off-track excursion without damaging his car.
It almost goes without saying that a Red Bull was fastest: this time it was the one driven by the 2010 Spanish GP winner, Mark Webber, while Lewis Hamilton was second quickest for McLaren. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel was third fastest ahead of Jenson Button in the other McLaren, while Nico Rosberg was sixth in the Mercedes behind Alonso. Tyre degradation was seen to be high during winter testing here in Montmelo and that has not changed with the increase in temperatures since then. Therefore it looks as though tyre strategy could again be the key, just as it was in Turkey, although that strategy needs to take the qualifying hour into consideration, not just the race, as drivers opt for the best compromise between setting a very fast lap time to get a good grid position and saving tyres for the race.

Spanish GP – A pre-season sort of day

Today’s free practice sessions were again very busy for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa completed a total of 119 laps, which equates to more than 500km, similar to a day of pre-season testing. There were so many new parts to test on the 150° Italia that the two drivers shared the workload. That was in addition to the usual Friday programme, based around finding the best set-up for the car and a comparison of the two tyre compounds provided by Pirelli.

Fernando Alonso: “We tried a lot of new things today and now we must extrapolate the information from all this work and select the best parts to put on the car for tomorrow. My first impression is favourable: I think we have made a step forward. It is always difficult to judge the gaps in free practice because there are always differences between one car and the next. I am certainly not surprised that the Red Bulls are still ahead of everyone: at the moment they are fastest and tracks like this one, or Budapest are particularly well suited to their characteristics. Having said that, while it’s true it might be difficult to beat them in qualifying, maybe in the race we can get closer, also to the McLarens and put them under pressure. We still have to work on the set-up: today we had too many things to test and we did not have time to make too many changes. I think the chances of fighting for a podium finish are even more likely here than they were in Turkey. The tyres? Pirelli has brought a new type of “hard” and it’s hard to imagine we can get through Q1 without having to resort to using the “softs.” One thing we had already seen in winter testing and which has been confirmed today is that degradation is pretty significant and so there is cause to expect a race like the one in Istanbul in terms of the number of pit stops.”

Felipe Massa: “That wasn’t an easy day for me. I had lots of problems getting the tyres to work, especially the hard compound, and I didn’t manage to put together a good time. That’s a pity because the new parts that we’ve brought here have improved our performance, even though the other teams remain very strong: there’s still a crucial gap to our main rivals. Now we must make the right choices to prepare as best we can for qualifying and the race. As for the tyres, I prefer not to go into details. Let’s say that there’s a lot of work to do in this area. When I went off the track I lost the rear and I ended up in the gravel: I passed very close to the barriers but fortunately I didn’t touch them so I managed to make it back onto the track without damage.”

Pat Fry: “A lot on the menu today this Friday in Montmelo and an initial reaction would be that first impressions are positive. We had a lot of new components to test: as always happens in these situations, some worked well, others less so and now it’s a case of putting together the jigsaw puzzle with the best pieces available. We also tried new aerodynamic concepts to assess how useful they might be. All in all, I think we have made progress in terms of performance, even if it is difficult to specify exactly if and by how much we have closed the gap to the quickest. The aim is to improve our performance in qualifying and also make progress in terms of our race pace, working down the same route we have taken for the past few races. It will not be easy to succeed but we are confident. Compared to what we saw in winter testing, even taking into account the fact temperatures are much higher now, tyre degradation seems very high: in fact I reckon the pit stop crew will have a lot of work to do on Sunday afternoon…”

  First session Second session  
Driver Pos. Time Laps Pos. Time Laps Chassis
F. Alonso 4th 1.26.480 27 5th 1.23.568 34 288
F. Massa 16th 1.28.654 28 8th 1.24.278 30 289

Weather

First session: air 22/29 °C, track 24/29 °C; sunny.
Second session: air 25/26 °C, track 33/35 °C; sunny.