Despite setting the pace during opening practice for this weekend's German Grand Prix at Hockenheim and being 'on the right road', former double world champion Fernando Alonso has reflected that Ferrari will need to produce 'something out-of-the-ordinary' if it is to beat habitual F1 2010 pace-setter Red Bull Racing to the top of the timing screens during qualifying on Saturday.
Well down the order early on in the rain, as the track surface increasingly dried out around the Baden-Württemberg circuit, so Alonso came to the fore, and in FP2 the Spaniard narrowly pipped Red Bull rival Sebastian Vettel to day one honours – underlining his prior conviction that courtesy of recent improvements, the F10 can now shine anywhere [see separate story – click here
]. The true acid test, though, he acknowledges, will only come in 24 hours' time.
“We have seen before on Fridays that we are very competitive and then on Saturday, the Red Bulls are clearly quicker,” mused the Oviedo native, “so we have to take this result with a grain of salt. In order to be in front tomorrow, we will have to do something out-of-the-ordinary.
“Today's changeable weather made for a different day to usual, making it even harder to get a true picture of the hierarchy among the teams – you only had to use the softs five minutes later to gain half a second. We concentrated on our work, and now we have to analyse the data to be as well-prepared as possible for qualifying and the race.
“In terms of set-up we are on the right road, although we need to improve the balance of the car. With these track conditions, combined with quite low temperatures, it is important to be very careful with the tyres so as not to ruin them immediately, especially the softs, so as to be able to evaluate their degradation for the race. From what we could see, there are no particular surprises in-store.”
Team-mate Felipe Massa showed well in both sessions, lapping second-quickest in the wet and third-fastest in the dry, just under two tenths adrift of Alonso. Having endured a three-race barren run that has all-but killed his title challenge for this season, the Brazilian and erstwhile championship leader is palpably keen to get himself back on the scoreboard with a vengeance in Germany – and confident he can do just that.
“A good start to the weekend here at Hockenheim,” affirmed the 29-year-old Paulista, “but it is still much too soon to say where we are compared to our main opponents. The changing weather conditions will play an important role, and we must be as well-prepared as possible to tackle the various possible scenarios – for example, if qualifying takes place in the wet and the race in the dry.
“It will be important to understand the behaviour of the tyres, and from what we can gather in similar conditions, the softs are pretty good while the hards are definitely too hard for this track. The latest updates introduced on the F10 also seem to be working well, confirming the progress made on the car. I would like to take this occasion to congratulate Sauber on its 40 years in racing; I started my F1 career with them, and I really hope they stay in this sport for a long time.”
“It was quite a productive day,” concluded the Scuderia's
chief track engineer Chris Dyer. “Despite the changing weather, which definitely didn't help, we nevertheless managed to work through practically all the planned programme. We have a few new technical updates on the F10, which seem to have given us something extra in terms of car performance.
“We managed to evaluate both types of dry tyre and our drivers felt relatively comfortable with both the hard and the soft, and equally pleased with the car. On a track like this, the gaps are shortened, so we can expect a very close fight tomorrow in qualifying.
“Furthermore, today's times have to be seen as less representative than usual given the rapid change in track conditions. Tomorrow's forecast is for rain in the morning, whilst qualifying, at least according to the latest bulletin from the middle of this afternoon, should take place in the dry, as should Sunday's race.”