Despite acknowledging that there was 'nothing new under the sun' on the opening day of practice ahead of this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos – the penultimate outing of a thrillingly unpredictable F1 2010 World Championship campaign – Ferrari has conceded that it will 'have to improve' if it is to successfully take the fight to habitual pace-setters Red Bull Racing in qualifying in São Paolo.
A lowly 13th and 14th-fastest respectively in the morning – as Red Bull pairing Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber again ruled the roost – world championship leader Fernando Alonso and home hero Felipe Massa improved to third and fifth later on.
Along the way, however, the Spaniard lost time with an engine failure towards the end of FP1 – albeit, fortunately for his title chances, one that was due in any case to be 'pensioned off' during the lunch break – and the Brazilian found his preparations hampered by an electrical issue in the afternoon that disengaged the clutch and forced Massa to park up.
“As usual, it is very difficult to draw any conclusions after Friday's two free practice sessions,” reported a calm Alonso. “In fact, the Red Bulls have always been dominant for the last six or seven Fridays, therefore there were no surprises today. Even when we have managed to take pole, they have been very competitive the previous day.
“For us, it will be important to stay ahead of the McLarens and the other teams, who on this track could be in the mix; by that I mean Renault, Williams and Mercedes. Then, the forecast is for rain tomorrow and anything could happen. It will be vital to understand when and on what tyres to go out on-track to set a time.
“We have introduced a few updates on the car which seem to be a positive step, even if we still need to analyse the data in-depth. The engine change between the two sessions was already on the day's programme, therefore in reality I only lost a couple of laps, nothing more.”
“I ran wide at Turn Two and went over the kerb quite heavily,” added Massa, unbeaten in qualifying on home turf in his last three appearances. “I immediately noticed that the clutch had disengaged, and I was unable to select any gear to try and get back to the pits. Nothing like that has ever happened to me before; it was only when the car was brought back to the garage that we discovered it was an electrical problem. It was a shame, because I was on my first run with the soft tyres and I had yet to fully understand how they were working.
“Overall, I feel we can be competitive this weekend. Sure, the Red Bulls are very strong, as are the McLarens. It is meant to rain tomorrow and, on a wet track, anything could happen. I don't expect any special problems with the tyres, as their behaviour seems to match our expectations – it's true I did not do a long run on the softs, but the initial impression is that they are also consistent.
“The Brazilian crowd is incredible, singing and dancing all day long! They are very passionate about F1 and for a driver who is from here, it is a great pleasure to race in front of these fans – it gives you an extra motivation to give your all to make them happy.”