Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa finished Friday practice for the German GP in 6th (1:31.056) and 7th (1:31.059) place position, respectively.
The Formula 1 media can often seem like bloodhounds, as they doggedly follow a story, long after the scent has faded. That’s been the case so far in Germany, where the tyre problems at the British Grand Prix have filled many column inches and taken up several gigabytes of web space.Ferrari drivers had any specific problems. That’s good news and there was more of that from the Prancing Horse camp, as the F138s certainly seemed more at ease at the Nurburgring, showing a pace that was more like what we had seen in the races prior to last weekend in Silverstone.
However, the day was not exactly trouble free, as Fernando Alonso’s car suffered an electrical problem in the opening minutes of the morning practice and effectively took no more part in the rest of the session.
Felipe encountered no such difficulties and by the afternoon, the Brazilian was joined on track by his Spanish team-mate, so that by the end of the day, Felipe had done 59 laps – one short of Sunday’s race distance – and Fernando completed 41 on his way to sixth place on the time sheet, one place ahead of Felipe.
Although the tyres worked fine, it’s clear there is quite a difference in the behaviour of the Medium Prime and the Soft Option, so that working out the best strategy for Sunday is going to be an interesting exercise for everyone, while getting the very most out of the tyres for tomorrow’s qualifying will also be one of the topics of tonight’s lengthy engineering meeting.
For a change, a Mercedes did not top the time sheet today, although Silverstone winner Nico Rosberg was second fastest, but the Friday “pole” went to series leader Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull.
The German’s team-mate Mark Webber was third, followed by the Lotus duo of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen. The weather has been dry all day and warmer, sunnier weather is forecast for Saturday here in the Eifel mountains.
Fernando Alonso: “Today went better than last Friday and even if there is still a long way to go, in general we seem to have made a step forward and returned to the level of competitiveness which we had prior to Silverstone. One of the positives was the behaviour of the tyres which worked well today and did not create any problems. Unfortunately, we lost the morning session because of a programming problem on the electronic control unit, which we then changed.
That halved our work programme and this evening we will have to do all we can to make up for it, but we already have an idea of where and how to make changes, because Mercedes, Red Bull and Lotus are ahead of us and we want something better than being the third or fourth team in the classification”.
Felipe Massa: “It was a particularly busy day, because we had a lot of things to test and we did as many laps as possible in order to complete the programme. We split the time between assessing the Pirelli tyres and a long run test. There is a big difference between the two compounds, caused by the high degradation of the Softs compared to the Mediums and it will be interesting to see how much influence this will have in the race.
As usual, choosing the right strategy will be very important. Qualifying remains our weak point, because usually we are less competitive than in the race and that’s why we will do our utmost to try and start from as far up the grid as possible. Over a long run, the car behaved well and this makes me very confident for Sunday”.
Pat Fry: “After a series of rain affected Fridays, today we hoped for conditions that would allow us to evaluate various solutions and to put together the best possible package for the weekend. Unfortunately, the problems with the electrical system on Fernando’s car affected part of the work which we had planned and the major part of the data that our engineers now have was aquired in the afternoon session.
Felipe and Fernando completed the usual tyre comparision and the first impressions are that the new kevlar construction has not affected the balance of the car. Certainly, we will have to do a lot more work to get the tyres working as well as possible: it will be very important to succeed in finding a set-up that allows us to manage the degradation as well as the phenomenon of graining, which is much more accentuated here than at other circuits we have been to so far”.