Despite Fernando Alonso being forced to sit out much of the morning session at Mugello, initial impressions of Ferrari's revised rear-end treatment suggests that it could help the Scuderia close the gap to its rivals.
The only in-season test of 2012 had been targeted for Ferrari's first major upgrade as it attempts to get its F2012 closer to the pace being shown by McLaren, Red Bull, Mercedes and Lotus over the first four races but, after two days of running for Alonso and Felipe Massa, the first outing for the upgrade lasted just a handful of laps before the Spaniard went off and damaged the car.
Despite Ferrari announcing that the repair would take a couple of hours, thereby negating much of the morning session, Alonso returned to the track to complete a further ten laps before the lunch break, and then continued to pound around throughout the hours that followed. His efforts were clearly focused on understanding the reworked rear, as his morning time remained his personal best heading into the closing stages, but at least one experience observer suggested that the changes provided an improvement.
"It looks like a reasonable step forward - you could be looking at 0.2 seconds a lap, possibly more," BBC
analyst, and former F1 technical director, Gary Anderson commented, "The exhausts and sidepods are much more conventional now [and] the 'coke-bottle' is a lot tidier than it was. There is still some upper rear bodywork sticking out into that area but not anywhere near as much as before. “
Anderson still wasn't happy with the full extent of the Scuderia's treatment, which features a tighter 'coke bottle' section and moves the exhausts closer to the centre of the car, but accepted the compromises had to be made in the name of improvement.
"There is no exhaust interference and, while they're struggling with the car, it is better to get rid of that for now and go in search of the bigger gains they need,” he noted, "Before, they were chasing the smaller gains from the exhaust but losing much more by compromising overall performance.
"I would prefer the radiator air exit to be at the back of the engine cover where Red Bull had it last year. Having said that, the new design is definitely an improvement.”
Ferrari still has to introduce its new front and rear wings and, while the latter could be introduced before the close of play at Mugello, both will feature on the car at the forthcoming Spanish Grand Prix.