Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

Alonso pleased with Mugello testing: “I am confident”

Scarperia, 3 May – A further 500 kilometres for the F2012, which reached the 250 lap threshold, equivalent to over 1300 kilometres during the course of the past three days at the Mugello Circuit. After rain on Tuesday came the second difficulty of the test, in the form of an off-track excursion for Fernando Alonso around mid morning. He went off at Turn 12, doing some damage to the front left corner of the car and the front wing, but more significantly, the incident cost two and a half hours of track time. “First of all, I want to put everyone’s mind at rest, my family and friends: I’m fine, no harm done after hitting the crash barrier at seven kilometres an hour,” said the Spaniard with a touch of irony, when he met with the journalists at the end of the day. “We made up for the time lost this morning in the afternoon in terms of quantity, given that the final mileage is more or less what we had planned for, but not in terms of quality, because the track had changed this afternoon, mainly because of the wind.

“However, I am very pleased with these three days of testing,” continued Fernando. “The feeling I have after the test is a positive one. We have introduced a few small, and I stress that word, aerodynamic updates, that have produced the response we were expecting and that is the most positive news, which means I am confident for the future, in the short and the long term. It means that what we see in the factory in Maranello has now also been confirmed on track. Furthermore, we have worked on other areas, especially the tyres, doing short and long runs, on set-up and also on starts, given we were also trying out a new clutch.

“I cannot say if today at Mugello we can claim to have made up some ground, but in Barcelona, we will have more important updates and we hope that there, we can begin to close down the gap that separates us from the teams currently at the top,” added Alonso. “We have decided to favour development time in the wind tunnel rather than bringing forward all the new components to this test. Sure, it would be nice to be able to test all the updates on track first, but it is also nice that we can count on all the possible development potential for every single part. Barcelona will be a key moment in the season, but not a decisive one. It’s not a case that we will suddenly find ourselves back on pole position, because there is no magic button. We must start by no longer struggling to get through to Q3 and get closer to the top six, then continue with development in the following races, making a step forward in Monaco, Canada and Valencia also. That is the only way in which we can contemplate finding these seven or nine tenths – it’s hard to assess exactly how far off we are on the basis of the first races – which separate us from the leaders. Certainly, I am not denying that next weekend’s event is a significant one: we cannot allow ourselves to struggle to get into Q3 if we want to fight for the title.”

Asked for an assessment of the new exhaust configuration tried for the first time today, Fernando’s first response was curt: “There’s no difference in terms of driving compared to the one I tried on Tuesday,” before going into more detail: “The exhausts are not the critical area this year, which can be seen from the fact that so far, cars with different configurations have won and, in Bahrain for example, the Red Bull won with the downward facing exhausts, but the quickest car on track was the Lotus, which has straight ones.”

The return to in-season testing even if it is just one session which in fact was removed from the winter programme, was seen as a good thing by the Scuderia driver. “I prefer this calendar to last year’s because after the first races, one understands a lot more about the car and so one can make modifications that have a sense to them,” said Alonso. “Indeed, for me I would do more tests during the season. Then, I must say it was a pleasure to be driving at this circuit again: one lap here is worth a hundred at other places, without considering that one day here is worth a year’s work on the simulator, at least as far as I’m concerned.”

Fernando will be back trackside on Tuesday at Fiorano, but as a spectator this time. The driver from Oviedo will take part at the event that commemorates the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Gilles Villeneuve, whose son Jacques will do a run behind the wheel of the 312 T4 that his father drove for part of the 1979 season. He will thus find himself for a day, in the same colour, this time red, as Jacques Villeneuve, his team-mate for the last Grands Prix of the 2004 season with Renault.