Pedro de la Rosa's first day as a Ferrari driver did not go to plan, but he still had praise for the engineers that ensured that it was not a complete waste.
After the high of Felipe Massa's fastest time on day three – a mark that stood as the best of the four-day test at Jerez – de la Rosa managed just a couple of installation laps before smoke began to billow ominously from the lone F138. Diagnosed as a gearbox glitch, the Spaniard was in for a long stop at the Ferrari garage while the mechanics fixed the problem, but the car was back on track in time to complete the afternoon programme, which was given over mainly to analysing various aerodynamic configurations and set-up tests, as well as the usual long runs.
"All in all, it's been a positive day for me, as I finally got a feel for the car and that will be very important when it comes to comparing the data with the simulator as we develop the car,” de la Rosa noted, reflecting on his primary role with the Scuderia, "We are not yet where we want to be on our simulation and there will be a lot of work to do, but that's why I've been taken on and, in my own small way, I hope to do my best to contribute to the progress of the Scuderia.”
de la Rosa, who made his name as a test and development driver with big Ferrari rival McLaren, admitted that, after the anticipation of finally stepping aboard one of the scarlet machines, the day threatened to be something of an anticlimax
“I had a lot of mixed feelings today,” he confirmed, “I was very excited to drive the car but, when I got out after the first two laps, I was not exactly happy. All my life I've been waiting for an opportunity like this and to see it end after just a few corners was definitely not nice, especially because I wasn't sure that we would be able to continue with the programme. But then the team did an amazing job and it was vital to get back on track given how few days are available to us."
The Catalan, who spent last year toiling around at the back of the field with HRT, eventually managed to complete 50 laps, with a best time of 1min 20.316secs. That left him more than two seconds off the quickest time, set by Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus, but the purpose of his run wasn't to examine the pace of the F318.
At first glance, the data he obtained confirms Massa's first impressions that the new car was easier to drive, more stable and better balanced than last year's F2012. In the Brazilian's hand in particular, the new car racked up a decent number of kilometres, but the development programme will continue at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya from 19 February, with Ferrari aware that, despite Massa's 1min 17.879secs best and the first set-up changes made between Tuesday and Friday proving positive, there are still areas that need improving.