This is the start of an important week for Formula 1, the last one given over to testing before heading off to Australia and the start of the 2012 World Championship, which gets underway at the Albert Park circuit on 18 March. For Fernando, the week began on track, but not at the wheel of the F2012, nor at the Catalunyan one which hosts official testing in a few days. Instead, he was at Jarama, on the outskirts of Madrid, in the cockpit of a 458 Italia.
It was part of an event organised by the Santander Bank who invited the Spanish specialist media to the venue of one of Gilles Villeneuve’s greatest wins, back in 1981. The purpose was to outline the involvement of one of the Scuderia’s major sponsors at the highest level of world motorsport, Ten winners of a quiz about Ferrari and the career of Fernando Alonso were given a ride around the track with the Spanish driver himself at the wheel.
“We are continuing with development of the new car,” said Fernando when he met the press. “Maybe we are only taking small steps forward, but they are coming constantly: in Barcelona, the F2012 was better than it had been in Jerez and it will be better still this week and even more so in Melbourne. There is still a lot of work to do, but as of today, there is no reason why we should not be ready for the first race. It’s true there are only four more days of testing and we will have to also make use of the first Friday at a race weekend to continue with development, but the car is reasonably complex and needs time, as was the case over the first eight days.
We are only taking small steps forward, but they are coming constantly
It is definitely too early to say where we are compared to the others. Red Bull is very strong, but that’s hardly a surprise. For our part, it will be useful to get off to a good start as this always takes the pressure off the team, but if we do not turn out to be competitive enough to challenge for victory immediately, then it’s important that it’s not just one person doing the winning. If one thinks about it, the difference in performance between us and Red Bull in 2011 was not that different to what it had been in 2010 and yet two years ago, we came to the last race leading the championship, while last year we were hardly ever in the title fight.”