Pessimistic? Maybe, but it would be better to define it as realistic. Pat Fry is an engineer and his impressions are based on data. One would be hard pressed to get him to make declarations or appeals just for effect. His analysis of the twelve days of testing carried out these past two months between Jerez and Barcelona is lucid and not does not leave much room for illusion, although it does not abandon itself to self flagellation of the masochistic kind. It would have been quite easy to blow smoke in people's eyes at the end of a final test day when Fernando Alonso posted the second fastest time in 1.22.250, but that's not in character for the Scuderia's Technical Director.
"In the hunt for the podium in Melbourne? At the moment I'd say no," commented Fry. "We are disappointed with the performance level seen at these tests and I think we have a lot of work ahead of us. Clearly the decision relating to the exhausts that we took last week meant we took a few steps backwards in terms of development.
How much? Difficult to say right now. In testing, you can only make assumptions regarding what fuel loads the other cars are running and it will only be in Melbourne that we will get a clear answer as to whether we have to be very disappointed or just a little, how far we really are off the front runners and consequently how much ground we have to make up to get there."
In the hunt for the podium in Melbourne? At the moment I'd say no
The aim of the technical group is clear: "We must improve in general the level of aerodynamic downforce on the car, but we are well aware that the pace of development is more or less the same for everyone. We will have a few updates for Melbourne, basically aimed at readapting the car to the exhaust configuration we have chosen to run for at least the first four races of the season."
The exhausts are one of the most commonly discussed points in conversation with Fry: "We have been working on the current configuration for really just two weeks. We found a bit of performance but there's no doubt that the original solution is the one that gives the most. I think we can claw back, at best, at least 25% of the downforce we had last year, even if we need to see what that costs us in fuel consumption and corner turn-in stability. At the moment it's still causing us problems, but it's the most obvious way to try and improve performance and increase aerodynamic downforce.
We will continue to work on it, as indeed will all the others. The Mugello test will be useful to try new parts, because it is always difficult to introduce major developments during a race weekend, but today, we can't say if we will have something worthwhile or less so and all the others will be doing the same. The Red Bull exhausts? I think that's a question for Charlie Whiting."
Fry was asked if he thought qualifying could throw up some surprises and the Reds TD agreed. "I think we can indeed expect a different scenario to the recent past, with the performance differences reduced so that maybe you won't be able to count on making the cut out of Q1 with a calm lap on hard tyres and the same could be said for Q2: we will get the answer in Australia."
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