Ferrari insists that Felipe Massa's apparent lack of pace on the opening day of F1 group testing at Jerez is no cause for concern as it attempts to learn the nuances of its 2012 challenger.
Denied the chance to shake the F2012 down at Fiorano as planned because of the heavy snow that fell prior to the launch of the car last week, the Scuderia headed straight to Jerez without its usual initial data. The opening day in Spain was then spent gathering the important figures that will serve as a baseline for future development, with Massa completing a mammoth 300+km in the course of eight hours.
The team's work centred almost exclusively on data acquisition relating to the handling of the new car, with the fastest of the Brazilian's 69 laps coming in at 1min 22.815secs and leaving him a lowly ninth on the twelve-name timesheet. Before the tifosi
begins to despair, however, chief designer Nikolas Tombazis insisted that the team, be given time to play with the car's settings before chasing representative lap times.
"This car represents a clear break with the one that preceded it, and features concepts that are very different for us and that require much more fine tuning," he told the official Ferrari website, "That's why, today, we absolutely did not have an eye on the stopwatch, preferring to concentrate on gathering as much data as possible in order to get as good an understanding as possible of the behaviour of the car.
"We have much to do but, all in all, there are reasons to be pleased with the 300km that we put together with Felipe at the wheel. We had to experiment with different solutions and that will be the case for the next few days as well. It's obvious that some [experiments] delivered what was expected while others did not, but that's the purpose of testing, getting to understand how a car behaves and how best to develop it."
Tombazis admitted that he still got the thrill of seeing a new car hit the track for the first time - even one as potentially unattractive as the F2012 - but emphasised that the team had taken a new direction in an effort to halt Red Bull's pursuit of a third straight title. Among the radical features is a switch to pullrod suspension front and
rear, which test driver Marc Gene revealed was an idea not seen in the top flight for some time.
“The system seeks to lower the centre of gravity and improve the entry and operation of the air from the front to the rear to improve downforce,” the Spaniard told the El Mundo
newspaper, “It was last seen at the front of Fernando Alonso's Minardi in 2001!”
“It's true that you always experience a special feeling when the car goes out on track for the first time and today was no different to many others I have been through just like it," Tombazis noted, "We decided that the only way to make a step forward was to be much more aggressive in our approach to the design of the car. It's true that the arrival of Pat [Fry] in the role of technical director made a significant contribution to this change, but it was a direction our group had already initiated. It is obviously too early to say if this year we will be able to win or not, but no one will be able to accuse us of having been timid in the design of this car."