12 May 2012
Rossi enjoys FP1 debut
Alexander Rossi admits that outright pace was not the name of the game on his grand prix weekend debut with Caterham F1.
Alexander Rossi joined three other 'reserve' drivers making an appearance in Friday morning's free practice session at the Circuit de Catalunya, running through a series of set-up evaluations for the Caterham team.
The American, who races for the Caterham Arden team in the World Series by Renault, was no stranger to the F1 outfit having run with it during the Abu Dhabi 'young driver' test, but this was his first official role in a race weekend, where he replaced Heikki Kovalainen for 90 minutes behind the wheel of the CT01.
In favourable conditions, and after a brief period looking on as the track cleaned up, Rossi used just a single set of the harder Pirelli tyres as he ran through a series of front and rear wing changes, eventually posting the 21st best time of the session, just under a second slower than team-mate Vitaly Petrov, in 1min 28.448secs.
"I am very pleased with how this morning's session went," he reported, "We completed the programme the team had set and I acclimatised quickly to the step up to F1.
"This isn't my first time working with the team, as I already have a day at the Abu Dhabi 'young driver' test last year under my belt, but coming into a full race weekend is a very different proposition. Today wasn't about setting the quickest lap I could - there may have been another seven or eight tenths to be found - but the main thing was to learn as much as I could, contribute by following the plan, give the engineers clear, concise feedback, and not make any mistakes. That's what we did, so I think it's been pretty much as good as it could have been."
Kovalainen returned to the cockpit alongside Petrov for the second session, but both drivers subsequently struggled with tyre wear on both compounds, giving the team some work to do on Saturday morning.
"Heikki and Vitaly concentrated on tyre work, looking at degradation levels on the soft and hard compounds we have available to us this weekend," technical director Mark Smith confirmed, "There is quite a big time difference between the two types of tyre which will make strategy in qualifying tomorrow very interesting, and will put the onus on Sunday on the drivers looking after the wear rates as much as possible.
“I think we have made good use of both sessions today. Alexander Rossi took part in his first FP1 session for us this morning and did a very good job, working through a programme that was looking at a number of rear wing options that gives us more information to work on in addition to the data we generated in Mugello last week."
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