Ferrari has confirmed that Fernando Alonso, who opted to miss the opening session at Jerez, will conduct the bulk of its running at this week's Barcelona test.
The Spaniard told his employer that he would give Jerez a miss in order to work on his personal fitness after a long 2012 campaign that stretched beyond the final round at Interlagos. Despite rumours that he may be nursing a rib broken during team-mate Felipe Massa's charity kart event in January, Alonso regularly tweeted pictures of himself running, cycling and in the gym during a break in Dubai. With a spot of skiing thrown in to officially round off the winter, Alonso will be back in harness this week, slated to complete the first three days of development at the Circuit de Catalunya.
“The four day test, from 19-22 February, will give Scuderia Ferrari the opportunity to confirm its findings from the week spent in Jerez and, hopefully, move forward in terms of understanding and performance - pretty much the same goals as the ten other teams, albeit with one added element, the first on-track appearance of 2013 for Fernando Alonso,” the Prancing Horse confirmed, adding that it was expecting a big turn-out to support the local hero.
“In light of the total twelve days of testing, to allow the Spaniard to complete his training programme two weeks ago, the team had decided to opt for Felipe Massa and Pedro de la Rosa for the first session in Jerez. Fernando has therefore maximised the time available and tackled the task with great dedication, performing a focused physical preparation worthy of the best Olympic athlete by alternating between gym sessions, running and biking.
“Now he is ready to slip into the cockpit of the F138 and benefit from all the work of Felipe and Pedro in Andalusia. This week it will be the Brazilian to sit out for the first three days, with the handover from his team-mate scheduled on Friday.”
Massa has already declared the new car to be a much better starting base than last year's F2012, but only constant development will prove whether it will be better than the opposition at the opening round in Melbourne next month. Technical director Pat Fry has said that he will only be satisfied if the F138 proves to be significantly faster than its rivals 'down under' [ see separate story
The Circuit de Catalunya is reckoned to be a more realistic test of how a car really performs, with aerodynamics - the key to modern F1 performance - playing a more important role. As a result, the Scuderia's task list for the four days includes the continued gathering of aero data, along with more tyre testing on a track surface that is more representative of what lies ahead. Despite it being just a couple of weeks removed from the F138's launch at Maranello, the team is also expecting to introduce some new elements and updates.
While Massa's quickest time from Jerez has already prompted some ill-informed observers as a sign that Ferrari will run away with the title, the team at Maranello knows better, and will concentrate on its own programme in the remaining two tests to ensure that it can combat the inevitable closing up of performance across the grid as F1 moves into the final year of its current rules package.