Circuit: Circuit de Catalunya – 4.655 km Driver: Fernando Alonso Car: Ferrari 150° Italia Weather: air temperature 12/13°C, track temperature 12/13 °C. Heavy rain all day.
Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro’s winter testing ended in torrential rain. The weather at the Catalunya Circuit was atrocious from the early hours of the morning and stayed that way into the early afternoon, so that the team decided to bring proceedings to an end around two hours ahead of the chequered flag.
Up to that point, Fernando Alonso had only managed five incomplete laps, their only purpose to do some practice some starts in the wet and to check out the way the car behaved in these extreme conditions.
Alonso: “100% ready for Melbourne: we’ll see if it’s enough!”
There was no respite from the rain on this final day of winter testing, so that Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, unlike its “colleagues” at Mercedes, McLaren and Williams, decided to stop a few hours ahead of schedule. Therefore Fernando Alonso’s kilometre total remained unchanged from the lunch break, so just five “out-in” laps accumulated laboriously between 10 and 11 this morning.
“The conditions meant you could not lap in a way in which you could learn anything useful,” commented the Spaniard at the end of the day. “If we had found ourselves in this situation in a race weekend, there would definitely have been a red flag. Even with a day like this, I am pleased with how the winter testing has gone. On average, we have done around a hundred laps each day, which demonstrates we have the reliability which is a priority when you are dealing with a new car: we are the team that has completed the greatest distance of all. However, we still need to see how the tyres will perform in higher temperatures, which we might encounter in Australia and even more likely in Malaysia. In November, at the Abu Dhabi test, the situation was a bit different to these tests in Spain, but we will have to wait for a race to find out more. What is certain is that we will not see races like those of 2010, in which strategy was obvious right from the start of the weekend. This year, a lot of attention will go into deciding if it is best to do two, three or four stops, being flexible and ready to manage any situation. Maybe sometimes it will be better to do a few less laps in each stint and make the most of the tyres at the point when they are at their best, or looking at doing one less stop: it will depend on the track and how the race evolves. Yesterday, we did a good simulation, alternating between two types of tyres at each of the four stops: we will see what happens in Melbourne.” Fernando praised the work of the team at these tests: “Overall, I think we will arrive in Melbourne in a hundred percent state of readiness, but whether or not that will be enough to win, we will not know until we are there in Australia. I feel confident, just as I did last year going into the start of the season. We are in good shape, even if we know we are not racing alone out there. We want to win, but that does not mean that if it did not happen, it would be a disaster: sport cannot be just a question of victory or defeat. If we win it will be fantastic, but if we don’t then we will try again the following year, as Ferrari has always done. One thing’s for sure, we will have to push on the development, like we did last year. For example, at Albert Park, I hope we will manage to bring a few updates, especially to the front wing, which can still give us a fraction more in performance terms.”
At Wrooom, Alonso had said he reckoned Michael Schumacher would be one of his strongest rivals and that statement had met with a degree of sarcasm from the media. Yesterday’s performance from the former Ferrari driver, now with Mercedes had made that prophecy look more credible in the eyes of many and obviously Fernando was asked if he had been surprised. “To be honest, I did not think of what I had said at Madonna di Campiglio! I think Mercedes has shown it has made a good step forward compared to the start of the tests and can be one of the favourites for Melbourne. It’s normal that, with a quick car, Michael should immediately be competitive. It’s not a surprise because I still think there’s a significant group made of Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes, Renault and maybe Williams, who along with us, can aspire to victory in the first few races. Then, we will have a more realistic picture of the situation and a smaller group of teams who will fight it out for the championship and we hope to be part of it. I don’t think it makes much difference to us to be ahead of or behind the Red Bull, who are maybe the favourites, in terms of the work we have to do: to catch up you have to multiply your efforts to do it in a hurry and if you have the upper hand, then you work just as hard to maintain it. That is the way it is in Formula 1. The aim is always to have the quickest car in the pack. Other elements can play a key part at certain moments, but in the long term, the one with the quickest package wins.”