Fernando Alonso: "In general, I’m happy with the work we did on set-up and tyres and especially with the time I did with a heavy fuel load."
Monza – The Italian Grand Prix is always a unique event on the Formula 1 calendar and for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact it’s the home race for the most famous team in the sport – you know who that is – so the fans play a particularly important part in creating the atmosphere over the weekend.
Then, this year, there are other factors to throw into the mix, because even if you want to run a car with low drag and low downforce, the fact the cars have inherently less downforce this year, by virtue of the new technical regulations, meant this Friday saw the engineers and drivers heading into uncharted waters.
It was an interesting three hours therefore and, with the usual proviso that Friday times mean little, the tifosi can be allowed a little bit of optimism at seeing the two F14 Ts produce respectable lap times, ending the day running together behind the dominant Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, who inevitably topped the time sheet.
But one still needs to remain cautious about what the Saturday and Sunday scenarios will be, because even if third placed Kimi Raikkonen and fourth placed Fernando Alonso posted times that were closer than usual to the Mercedes, one has to consider that, this afternoon, the top 12 cars all qualified within the same second.
Tomorrow will provide a clearer picture, as despite the fact it began to rain a few hours after FP2, a warm dry day is forecast for tomorrow, which means Qualifying should produce a thrilling fight, a fight in which hundredths of a second could make the difference and just getting to the final top ten shoot out should not be considered a foregone conclusion.
Fernando Alonso: “For various reasons, Friday in Monza is always a bit different to the others, with a special significance for our team in the weekend of its home race. The track characteristics also make it one of a kind: here you run with low aerodynamic downforce, you feel the car is quicker down the straights and lighter in the corners and, as was the case today, you need to try different downforce levels.
In general, I’m happy with the work we did on set-up and tyres and especially with the time I did with a heavy fuel load. Towards the end, we were worried we had a problem, but to banish any doubt, we went out for another lap and everything seemed back to normal. Now, we are preparing for tomorrow and we hope to do well for all the fans who were already here today cheering us on from the stands.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “That was a very busy day, but a positive one. We made the most of every minute available to us in both sessions, managing to try everything we had on our programme. In the morning, we concentrated on assessing different aero configurations, in search of the best level of downforce. Then in the afternoon, we opted for an intermediate solution that seemed to produce the best results on both compounds. The difference between the Medium and the Hard is more or less what we expected; the softer one behaves well, but in terms of driveability, I found the Hard wasn’t bad either.”
Pat Fry: “Monza is a special circuit with unique characteristics. The long straights and the small number of corners mean that on Friday one has to work on finding the best aerodynamic configuration. Even if in general, the cars have less downforce, this year it’s more complicated than usual to find the right set-up and decide what is the right level of downforce for the fast corners such as Ascari or the Parabolica. Therefore, in the morning and the afternoon, we worked to improve the cars’ stability and now we will try and optimise our package based on the data gathered from both drivers.
Fortunately, we encountered no problems today and it was important to get through the programme, including evaluating tyre performance, as the ability to generate grip from the tyres is even more important when the cars are running in low downforce configuration. Overall, we are pleased with today’s work, but we know we still face a particularly demanding weekend.”