Fernando Alonso reported no ill-effects from the opening day of the United States Grand Prix, but admitted that he wasn't really sure where Ferrari stood after two practice sessions.
The Spaniard made the decision to compete despite suffering the after-effects of his trip across the kerbs in Abu Dhabi, and even set the pace in a truncated morning session – which was cut short by fog and the need to wait for the medical helicopter – but ended the day down in tenth spot as other teams proved more adept on the softer of the two Pirelli tyres.
“I had no problem being back on track today,” Alonso reported, “My back felt fine and I was able to drive the same as always.
“Compared to last year, the track conditions seemed better: for the first grand prix here, it was too new and there was a bit of oil on the track, while now there's a lot more grip. As expected, there was very little degradation today as Pirelli's choice of the medium and hard compounds here in Austin are an ultra-conservative choice. Generally, there were no major surprises and now we must wait and see how things go tomorrow - and especially Sunday.”
Technical director Pat Fry admitted that the delay to FP1 had forced the Scuderia to change its run plan, but shared Alonso's assessment that the Circuit of the Americas had improved in the twelve months since F1 first raced there, even if that made judging tyre wear more difficult.
“Because of the fog in the morning, our first practice session was shortened to just half an hour of track time and that meant we had to reorganise our programme, concentrating mainly on aerodynamic testing, centred on the front and rear wings in order to find the best balance for the car,” Fry revealed, “In the second session, before the usual long run tests, we tried a few different mechanical solutions aimed at completing our set-up work.
“Compared to last year, the track seems to have improved and there is every chance that the more abrasive surface will ensure there is more grip. Tyre degradation is still an unknown factor to be assessed carefully, especially in the light of the data we acquired from the long runs.”
For Felipe Massa, meanwhile, the change between the two sessions was perplexing.
“Today was hard to interpret because, in the morning, we got off to a good start and it seemed the track was well suited to the characteristics of our car, but then that changed in the afternoon and we were unable to set competitive times,” he confirmed.
“Compared to recent races, the car has stayed the same and therefore we cannot expect a very different level of performance. But it's definitely important to understand why the car changed so much between the two sessions, especially as compared to last year, the asphalt has improved a lot and the grip has increased considerably. I don't think that is down to the rise in temperature, but maybe the wind didn't help. We have a lot of work ahead of us to try and improve for the rest of the weekend.”