SEVERAL IRONS IN THE FIRE FOR THE SCUDERIA
In the unusual and intriguing atmosphere of the Yas Marina circuit, where track action starts under the blinding light of the sun before going on to run under the floodlights, there was a busy first day of testing for the penultimate round of the 2011 season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The increased work load can be ascribed partly to the two additional sets of tyres made available to each driver as part of Pirelli's development programme for the 2012 season and also because of the work programme the Scuderia had planned for its two drivers. Fernando Alonso completed 45 laps of this circuit, missing out on the final part of the second session after he went off the track at Turn 1. Felipe Massa did 51 laps, in what were essentially two trouble free sessions.
"Just as was the case in India a fortnight ago, again here in Abu Dhabi, I lost a bit of time: there it was the engine that left me standing at the side of the track and here it was an off-track excursion. It's not that there's a particular problem with grip at Turn 1, but if you touch the kerb when braking then you do lose some grip. As for me and Vettel both going off the track at the same point, I saw a lot of similarities: maybe tomorrow, we will try and stay a bit more towards the middle of the track without going so near the limit at this corner! I am annoyed about losing some time, but above all, I am sorry for the mechanics who now have extra work to do to put the car together again.
I will try and repay them with a nice lap tomorrow evening in qualifying. I did not have anything new to try today so we concentrated mainly on a comparison of two different levels of aerodynamic downforce and on assessing the new Pirelli tyres for 2012. As usual, it's difficult to say where we are compared to everyone else, because there are always plenty of unknowns on Friday. I don't think I'll be fighting for pole or the win, but the first impressions are that we are in ever so slightly better shape than we had expected to be going into this weekend. The track had improved by the second session, which was partly down to the lower temperature: at lunchtime it was really hot on the track! With the Soft tyre we definitely feel comfortable, but also with the harder compound, we did not look so bad, as indeed we have seen in the last few races."
"They were two good sessions for me, but that does not mean much in terms of qualifying. Two weeks ago in India, I was fastest on Friday afternoon and then things went the way they did. Having said that, I am reasonably happy with how the last two races panned out in terms of speed and pace. Obviously, I can't say the same about the final results, because something always happened to me in the races: let's hope it will be different this time. I am sure it will: the important thing is to continue doing a good job, always being quick and then things will sort themselves out.
The helmet livery? The design celebrates the twentieth anniversary of Ayrton Senna taking his third title and the helmet will be auctioned to raise money for the Foundation that bears his name: I am honoured to be able to do something to support all the initiatives they work on. The vibrating front wing? Honestly, while I'm driving I am not aware of anything, the car always behaves the same way without any problems."
We are paying particular attention to the new front wing
"As is now routine in this final part of the championship, the two free practice sessions on Friday are a great opportunity to work on the two fronts that are our main objectives at the moment on track: along with the usual task of finding the best set-up on the car for this race, we are bringing forward a series of experiments on several fronts as part of the design work on the 2012 car. At the moment, we are paying particular attention to the new front wing and its influence on the handling of the car. Clearly, this is no easy task, requiring continuous work in every area, from research into its performance to improving the quality of the components.
Furthermore, we ran a comparison of various aerodynamic configurations to try and find the one best suited to this circuit, without ignoring the work of evaluating the tyres. It's obvious that there's a lot cooking and we have to ensure we are doing it properly, working speedily on all the ingredients, both at the track and at Maranello! In terms of competitiveness, I don't think there are any surprises here, which is actually what you would expect at this late stage of the season. We know where we stand and we know what we can aspire to."
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