Felipe Massa, Ferrari

Spanish GP – Testing times in Spain
Montmelo, 11 May – It’s fair to say that the Catalunya circuit has not always had good press from the 21 Grands Prix held here, because some of the races have been less than inspiring in terms of the excitement they provided the spectator. However, ask the drivers and the engineers and they love coming to Barcelona because of the challenges it presents. The circuit layout is generally fast and flowing which is what grand prix drivers prefer, while the track seems to change conditions for no obvious reason and without any warning. That is why it has always been a favourite venue for testing and today’s two free practice sessions, especially the first 90 minutes were more of an extension of last week’s three days of testing in Mugello. This was certainly the case for Scuderia Ferrari and for many of the other teams as well and as usual in the current F1 era, that mainly means aero testing.

No matter how busy a work programme, in line with the regulations, the teams are not allowed any additional staff at a Grand Prix so the guys in the Ferrari garage had an extremely intense time, fitting in all these additional tasks, along with the usual Friday programme of preparing for Sunday’s race and to a lesser extent for tomorrow afternoon’s qualifying session. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of the updates introduced on the F2012 and is not expected to deliver its verdict until qualifying tomorrow. So plenty of work overnight to see how best to fit together the various options, mixing and matching some old solutions and some of the new. The engineers will have plenty of data as Felipe Massa completed a total of 56 laps today – ten less than a race distance – on his way to eleventh fastest on the afternoon time sheet and Fernando Alonso did one less, ending up fourteenth.

Topping the time sheet this afternoon were three of this year’s four race winners to date: Jenson Button in the McLaren, followed by Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull and Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton was fourth in the other McLaren ahead of the Lotus duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Roman Grosjean.

Spanish GP – Alonso fastest in extra time
Montmelo (Barcelona) 11 May – Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari came out on top as the action began at the Catalunya circuit at Montamelo, the scene of the fifth round of the Formula 1 World Championship. Come the end of the first free practice session, the man from Asturias posted a time of 1.24.430 in his F2012, followed by Sebastian Vettel (1.24.808) in the Red Bull and Kamui Kobayashi (1.24.912) in the Sauber. In the other Ferrari, Felipe Massa was twelfth in 1.25.433. This Friday was pretty much a case of extra time added on to the Mugello test for Scuderia Ferrari, as it chose to evaluate updates by running two distinctly different programmes on its two cars, working very much on aerodynamics and using just one set of Hard tyres on each car.

Spanish GP – Lots of new parts and few surprises on the red-hot Barcelona grid
Montmelò (Barcelona), 11 May – The McLaren of Jenson Button set the fastest time (1.23.399) in the second session of free practice for the Spanish Grand Prix that has just finished at the Montmelò circuit. The Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel was second (1.23.563) ahead of Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes (1.23.771).
The F2012 of Felipe Massa was 11th after 35 laps of which his best was 1.24.418 while the other Ferrari of Fernando Alonso ended up 14th after 33 laps with a best of 1.24.600. Both Ferrari drivers swapped between the two compounds offered by Pirelli for the heated tarmac of the Catalan track – Hard and Soft – without managing to make the most of the softer compound.
The engineers will now analyse all the data collected about the new parts on the two cars ahead of the third and final session of free practice scheduled for tomorrow morning at 11am.

Spanish GP – Another day of testing in Montmelo
This was the first day of practice for the Spanish Grand Prix, but, for Scuderia Ferrari at least, it felt more like the sixteenth day of testing of 2012. There were a lot of items on the menu today, in terms of technical updates on the F2012, reconfirming the effectiveness of some that had been used during three days running in Mugello last week, or evaluating new ones brought to the track here for the first time. This work was carried out over more than five hundred kilometres completed during today’s three hours of free practice – 246 courtesy of Fernando and 260 from Felipe.

Fernando Alonso: “It’s nice to be back racing in front of my home crowd: from the moment I got here on Wednesday evening, I could already feel the warmth of the fans who are also now all Ferrari fans. We had a very busy programme, with a lot of new things to try and it was important to evaluate them very carefully. First impressions are positive: some parts worked as we expected, others less so, but broadly speaking, it confirms the tendency we had already seen in Mugello last week, which is that the data emerging form the wind tunnel has been been confirmed on track. Today, conditions were obviously very different to when we were here for the winter tests: it’s much hotter and the track surface conditions have therefore changed, with temperatures approaching 45º C. We tried to adapt the car set-up to the track conditions, but we are not yet completely satisfied: there is still work to do. Actually, it was a rather different Friday to usual, with the times even more mixed up than we have seen at the first four races this year. The tyres? No surprises, we know them sufficiently well now after all the kilometres we have done this winter and in the first part of the championship. The Softs seem quicker, the Hards more consistent, so nothing new there.”

Felipe Massa: “It was very hot today, which put the tyres under a lot of strain. We worked a lot on the updates we have available as from this weekend and, at first sight, the results seem to be positive. This morning especially, we concentrated on comparing different configurations, while in the afternoon, we worked mainly on set-up and tyre behaviour. It’s impossible to make a comparison with the results of winter testing, because the track surface conditions have completely changed as the temperature is so different to what we had in the winter. Now we must put together all the best elements to produce our maximum potential and prepare well for qualifying and the race. On Sunday, if it turns out as hot as this, it will be an even tougher race than usual, especially because of tyre degradation.”

Pat Fry: “An even busier Friday than usual for the whole team, coming off the back of a run of equally busy days, both at the track, with three days testing in Mugello and at the factory, where everyone put in an extraordinary amount of effort to bring as many new parts as possible here. In the two sessions, we privileged the job of evaluating and comparing all the new elements available, rather than the more usual preparation for a race weekend. I am not in the habit of giving instant verdicts on new parts: some elements have fully matched our expectations, others less so. Now we must analyse everything calmly, to get the most out of what we have and put it on the car. Definitely, car balance seems to be better on the Hards than the Softs and that partly explains the fact that we did not manage to significantly improve our times moving from one compound to another, without however forgetting that Fernando was always in traffic when he was on a set of new Softs. However, we still have a lot to do to set up the car in a way that will allow us to make the most of these tyres. All in all, I think we can say we have made a step forward, but how big it is compared to our competitors is something we will only find out tomorrow.”

First session Second session
Driver Pos. Time Laps Pos. Time Laps Chassis
F. Alonso 1st 1.24.430 20 14th 1.24.600 33 295
F. Massa 12th 1.25.433 21 11th 1.24.418 35 294
Weather
First session: air 23/27 °C, track 28/34 °C. Sunny.
Second session: air 30/29 °C, track 44/43 °C. Sunny.