He might have ended proceedings on top following the opening day of practice ahead of this weekend's European Grand Prix on home turf in Valencia, but double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso insists that based upon past experience this season, he doesn't 'even want to consider today's timesheet'.
Although lapping third-quickest in the morning session around the Valencia Street Circuit, Alonso was a full eight tenths of a second shy of Mark Webber's benchmark for Red Bull Racing, but the Ferrari star successfully turned the tables in the afternoon to pip former McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton by a fraction over two tenths and send his partisan supporters home happy. He stresses, however, that he is not letting himself get too carried away by his strong form just yet.
“Overall, a positive start to this Valencia weekend, my second home race,” the 29-year-old acknowledged. “We got through all our planned programme, working mainly on tyres, where the chief element at this grand prix is the first appearance of the medium [compound]. It was important that we were able to do so many laps, because on a circuit like this one, getting a lot of kilometres under your belt helps you gain confidence in the car, looking for the limits and thereby improving performance.
“The track characteristics are well-suited to our car, but it is too early to say where we are compared to the others. Already, in the past, we have gone well on the first day only to see ourselves losing out by a second in qualifying, therefore I don't even want to consider today's timesheet. In FP1 and FP2, you try so many things and the track changes very quickly – even more so on a street circuit like this one – so it is really impossible to make predictions.
“The car seems to handle well, therefore we can tackle qualifying with confidence, aware that we are up against very strong rivals – it's not by chance that Red Bull have always taken pole in the first seven races of the year, and clearly they are still the favourites. Overtaking here will be easier than in Monaco, but grid position will nevertheless be important.”
Albeit not quite on the same pace as Alonso, team-mate Felipe Massa lapped sixth-fastest in the morning and fifth in the afternoon, winding up just under half-a-second adrift and professing himself in similarly optimistic mood.
“I'd say it was a good day, better than many other Fridays this season,” the Brazilian underlined. “From what we could understand after three hours of free practice, the car is pretty competitive and I don't expect the situation to be that different to the one we saw two weeks ago in Canada. It's true it is only Friday, but at least it's a positive start!
“The tyres worked well; both the 'Prime' and the 'Option' delivered more grip than we had been expecting going into the weekend. Sure, there's a big difference between the two compounds, but the medium, with higher temperatures than we saw in Canada, did not do badly.
“Now we must make the right decision regarding set-up on the car for the next two days. The car balance is not yet perfect – for example, we are still locking the fronts too often under braking – but we are working in the right direction. Let's hope we can put up a fight in qualifying, just as we did in Canada.”
“Another busy day's work, divided up as usual into working on development of new solutions and preparing for the race weekend,” summarised the Scuderia's
chassis director Pat Fry. “The track was not as dirty as expected, which allowed us to gather a lot of interesting data to evaluate over the next few hours in order to define our technical choices for the next two days.
“We still have to fine-tune the car, so it is still a bit early to say if we will be as competitive as we were over the past two races. In particular, we must try and improve our performance in the third and final sector of the track. The medium-compound tyre makes its debut here; from what we could see, it offers less grip than the soft, which is the other tyre for this grand prix, but we have not yet found out how it lasts over a long run as we worked mainly with the 'Option', as did so many other teams.”