Felipe Massa, Ferrari

Malaysian GP – Dry practice

Sepang, 23 March – Lewis Hamilton was quickest on the first day of free practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix. After setting the fastest time in the morning session, the British driver’s McLaren also went top in the second session that recently finished at the Sepang circuit with a time of 1.38.172, ahead of the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher (1.38.533) and the other McLaren of Jenson Button (1.38.535). The F2012 of Fernando Alonso set the sixth fastest time (1.38.891), while the other Ferrari of Felipe Massa was 16th with 1.40.271.

Scuderia Ferrari completed its usual Friday programme. In the afternoon this was concentrated on the comparison between the two tyre compounds made available by Pirelli for the Malaysian track – Hard and Medium. The two cars lapped on heavy fuel loads in the second part of the session, which all took place on a dry track.

For the protagonists of this second round of the Formula 1 World Championship, the action will get back under way tomorrow at 1300 with the final session of free practice.

Malaysian GP – Plenty going on in Sepang

It was a very busy day for Scuderia Ferrari, with Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso getting through a lot of work, to be as well prepared as possible for qualifying and for the fourteenth edition of the Malaysian Grand Prix. Between them, the two F2012s covered 94 laps, 50 for Fernando and 44 down to Felipe. There were plenty of ingredients to work with, as Team Principal Stefano Domenicali made clear during this afternoon’s FIA press conference: now it’s down to the engineers to prepare all the ingredients as well as possible so that they make up the right dish for tomorrow afternoon.

Fernando Alonso: “As usual here in Malaysia, one of the main tasks on Friday is to get used to the extreme conditions as quickly as possible. Especially in the garage, you suffer from the heat when you are inside the cockpit, while at least out on track, you get a bit of air, although you can hardly call it cool! This morning we did a lot of work on comparing different aerodynamic configurations, which was a bit like putting together a puzzle, trying to find the best combination. In the afternoon, we then moved on to the usual Friday job with the tyres, running with various different fuel levels on board. I would say that on this front, both the Mediums and the Hards seem to behave reasonably well, both in terms of performance on the first lap and when it comes to degradation on a long run. We gathered a lot of useful information which will allow us to be ready for the rest of the weekend. It did not rain today, but we know that here a storm can arrive without a moment’s notice and so we need to be ready for every eventuality.”

Felipe Massa: Fernando and I were on rather different programmes from each other and that is the main reason for the difference on the time sheet. In the afternoon in particular, we went in completely different directions which in my case did not work, but at least it allowed me to understand a few important things about the handling of the car. Now my engineers and I know what is the right direction to go in, which makes me feel more optimistic for qualifying compared to how I felt about it last week in Melbourne. Clearly, at the moment, our car is not yet competitive at the highest level. Do I feel any special pressure? No, no more than usual: at Ferrari we are always under pressure. The important thing is to understand what did not work in Melbourne and I think we have everything in hand to do that.”

Pat Fry: “Both drivers had a very packed programme today, with slight differences between them, but focussed on the same three main points: a comparison between various aerodynamic configurations, an evaluation of the performance of the two types of tyre (Medium and Hard) that Pirelli have brought here and trying to find the best set-up. We had no major problems and so we were able to complete the entire programme and now we are analysing the data to fine tune the two cars for qualifying and the race. I would say that, at first glance, the situation is not that different to last week, nor could it be any other way, given that the cars are more or less identical to the way they were in Melbourne. We did not see any particular balance problems and the pace over a long run does not seem that bad. Fernando in particular seems to be a bit more comfortable with the car, while we still have work to do to put Felipe in the best conditions possible. The aim for tomorrow is to get both cars into Q3: we are aware that, with our current potential, it will not be easy, but we will give it our all.”

First session Second session
Driver Pos. Time Laps Pos. Time Laps Chassis
F. Alonso 15th 1.39.980 23 6th 1.38.891 27 295
F. Massa 13th 1.39.896 16 16th 1.40.271 28 294

Weather

First session: air 31/33 °C, track 34/38 °C. Sunny.
Second session: air 36/34 °C, track 41/44 °C. Sunny.

Malaysian GP – Hot, humid and hectic

Sepang, 23 March – Last Sunday we were racing in Australia and today, free practice has got underway for the Malaysian Grand Prix, the second round of the world championship. It’s a format the Formula 1 circus will get used to in 2012 as, this year, there are no less than seven sets of “back-to-back” races. It’s a punishing schedule, but this particular trip to what is the other side of the world for all the teams is perhaps the toughest: there is always a rush to get ready for the opening round of the season, the working day tends to be longer when the cars are new and after Melbourne, the teams then had to start work almost immediately in the physically draining heat and humidity of Sepang.

Races one week apart also mean the Scuderia’s F2012 is largely unchanged since the opening act in Albert Park. However, in a bid to wipe out all causes of Felipe Massa’s inability to get a coherent performance out of a car that appeared to suit him perfectly in winter tests, the Brazilian had a new chassis and some other parts were also changed. On top of that, the engineers had planned a packed programme, as everyone at Scuderia Ferrari has been working flat out to increase the performance level of the F2012 as it strives to catch the quickest cars on the grid. At a normal test session, carrying out aerodynamic evaluations can be quite a straightforward task of comparing different settings, but when you also have to fit in understanding the tyres, searching for outright speed over a single lap for Saturday’s qualifying and getting a well balanced car to be kind on tyres over a long run on Sunday, then life gets more complicated. However, a trouble free three hours of practice for both cars meant every item on the Job List was ticked off come the chequered flag to end Free Practice 2 at 3.30.

Dominating the afternoon time sheet were the McLaren and Mercedes teams: pole man from Australia, Lewis Hamilton was fastest for the former, followed by Michael Schumacher second for the latter, with their respective team-mates, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg third and fourth. Fifth ahead of Fernando was Daniel Ricciardo for Toro Rosso.