Seen from the outside, this Jerez test for Scuderia Ferrari might seem a bit schizophrenic: always a long way back on the time sheet for the first three days, about two or three seconds off the pace and then suddenly, Fernando Alonso is fastest on the fourth day, almost a second ahead of the rest.
In fact nothing had changed: the team continued to work on its own programme, centred almost exclusively at gathering data to understand the handling of the F2012. The 1.18.877 set by Fernando this morning means little, as the Spanish driver stressed when he met the press at the end of the test.
“This time is worth nothing as is the one I set yesterday and those of the previous days,” said Fernando. “Yesterday, we worked mainly with the hard tyres and the others ran the softs and we were seventh. Today, we fitted the Softs and maybe the others did not and we are first. That’s all it is.
“We got on with our job, even if today and yesterday we had some reliability problems we could have done without which prevented us from doing everything we would have wanted,” continued the Ferrari man. “For me, it was good to be back in the car after two and a half months and feel once again all the emotions that come with driving a Formula 1 car. I think that, from the start of the test up to today, we have improved a great deal, it’s like night and day, but there is still much to do, especially on the aerodynamics and on reliability. Then, we will see if it is really a sign of great strength to have immediately done so many kilometres: last year, on the first day we did a lot of laps and then we know how things turned out, so maybe there was too big a margin…”
As did Felipe, Fernando also stressed that the car has a big margin for improvement. “Everything about this car is new, with very few parts carried over from last year’s and there are many innovations, which have come out of a different philosophy to the one adopted in the past. For example, the power steering: it’s new and we worked a lot these past days on sorting it out and today we began to see the benefits for the first time. As I said earlier, there is much to do, but that doesn’t scare us.
Today and yesterday we had some reliability problems we could have done without
“These past few days we have done a great deal of laps, just to gather data, without being able to do much work in any depth on the set-up, therefore I think that, when we will be able to do that, we will also improve the performance. Already, here at Jerez, the moment we did make some changes, we got the response we were expecting, even if it’s true that the fact the car is more complex from a mechanical and aerodynamic point of view definitely makes the tasks more complex.
Today we saw a good example of that: we have only done around forty laps partly because it took so much time to carry out the changes we needed to make on the car to complete our programme. I think that in Barcelona, when we will be back on track, the situation will be different and we will be much better prepared compared to this test, where above all we had to learn how to get to grips with this car. Even we the drivers have more to do, because with so many new things on the car it’s even more vital we give the right feedback to the engineers.”
Fernando obviously did not want to launch into predictions about the championship. “We will see, as there are still several weeks to go to Melbourne. Here, day after day, we have progressed, getting ever more confident in the car: we must continue in this direction and improve, but it is much too early to draw any conclusions.” The Lotus in the running for the title? I don’t know as even for them it’s a bit early and I would rather just say I am very happy to see Kimi back: he’s a great driver and a great person.”
Finally, Fernando also wanted to reply to those who wanted to bring up the subject of stories and gossip doing the rounds in the media and on the internet these last few weeks. “I was on holiday in Rome and in Asia with some friends and anyway it’s easy to do cut and paste with photos,” said Fernando. “What is certain is the day that I have a girlfriend, my true friends and my family will definitely not be posting photos on the internet. A word is enough to the wise…”