Fernando Alonso again benefited from some persistent rain to emerge on top of the timesheets and hearten thousands of Ferrari fans on the opening day of F1's first in-season test for four years.
The Spaniard vaulted to the head of the times shortly before lunch, and remained there as rain continued to fall with some ferocity throughout the afternoon session. Whenever a drying track appeared possible, the precipitation began again, putting paid to any thought of improvement during the final four hours.
The Ferrari team leader's performance was met lustily, on the team's home soil, by a crowd the Scuderia estimated at over 15,000, with fans filling the grandstands and trackside areas, and spilling into the paddock, despite the less than favourable weather.
Alonso ran the whole day for Ferrari – with Felipe Massa due his turn later in the week – and concentrated on the development of new components for the F2012 and increasing the understanding of the behaviour of the tyres. Unfortunately, the track conditions, with only a small window of dry time in the late morning, required a drastic revision of the programme.
The afternoon was particularly limited, when the only work carried out was on a handful of practice starts. At the end of the day, a meagre total of 46 laps had been completed by the double world champion, but his quickest time of 1min 22.444secs remained the fastest outright.
“It's a shame about the rain, which complicated the running of this first day of testing - and a shame for the spectators, who deserved to see more of a show,” Alonso commented, “We had a pretty busy work programme, but we only managed to get through a part of it. Therefore, it's impossible to give a serious evaluation, especially as we did so little dry running.
“I can only say that, for me, it was a pleasure to be driving at this track again. The first and only other time was back in 2001, when I was testing for Minardi. It's a spectacular track and it would be nice to be able to race on it!”
If anything, Mark Webber and Red Bull Racing completed even less running than Alonso, but the Australian found enough of a window between showers to vault up into second spot, albeit fully 1.2secs shy of the outright pace.
Initial forecasts had suggested there would be a 30 per cent chance of rain at the Tuscan track, but damp conditions in the early morning also led the Milton Keynes-based team to run a re-worked plan, which included some running on Pirelli's intermediate tyres. RBR used those outings to test a number of aerodynamic and mechanical development parts, which had been brought to Italy for the test. A brief lull in the wet weather later in the morning gave Webber a couple of dry tyre runs and the team maximised the opportunity before the heaviest rain of the day arrived to record a lap of 1min 23:648secs.