After a turbulent pre-season, Ferrari are no nearer to knowing how competitive they will be in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, despite having a day of practice under their belts.
Fernando Alonso was fourth fastest in both sessions at Albert Park although he struggled desperately to hang onto the F2012 in the first session as the car's unpredictability continued. The Spaniard was content at the end of the day but has refused to predict where he will qualify tomorrow.
“It is always a pleasure to be back at a Grand Prix after the winter break: everyone is out on track together and there's the crowd, so it is always a nice feeling. It was a bit complicated trying to work through the programme we had planned for this Friday because of the weather. Therefore there is still a bit of work to do tomorrow before qualifying, but I think the others are in a similar position. I am reasonably satisfied with the car: the initial feeling as to its balance is positive. However, we have not done the usual comparison between the two types of tyre, because we ran mainly on the intermediates and the Mediums and these seem to be behaving quite well, as far as degradation is concerned.”
“It was important to have everything working perfectly – from the KERS to the engine, from the power steering to the gearbox and everything else, as is always the case on the opening day of the season – and that's how it went. There's no point looking at the time sheet from today with a view to making predictions for qualifying. Tomorrow I expect to see a very mixed up grid because there are so many teams that have done a good job over the winter. We will try and do our best, putting together the best elements we have tried in the past weeks, including a few details we brought here. However, my opinion has not changed: we wait for tomorrow to see where we are compared to the others. But if I was to give some sort of opinion on the day, I would say it's been positive. We did the important things, the balance is good and the car responds well to changes.”
Under-pressure Felipe Massa didn't make the best of starts to his 2012 season after spinning off in first practice. The Brazilian's long-term future at Ferrari is in question and putting a wheel on the grass under braking for turn nine did little to boost morale.
Massa recovered to take seventh in FP2 although he didn't complete enough mileage to work out whether the car has improved since testing.
“After over three months, finally we are back to what we drivers like best, namely racing. However, today was a rather difficult first day back, because we could not do as many laps as we had planned. The rain complicated matters in both the first and the second session. In the first one, I also went off track, which cost me a bit of time: as I was braking, I got the left rear wheel on the grass and the car took off on its own, only stopping in the gravel on the escape road. In the second session, the rain meant the track was wet for a long time and only towards the end was I able to fit the dry tyres. All things considered, it wasn't really possible to understand much as to where we are compared to the others. I did too few laps to say if the car has changed since the last day of the Barcelona test. Tomorrow afternoon, in qualifying we will all run in the same conditions so we will finally understand something!”
Technical Director Pat Fry admitted it was “impossible” to judge how quick the F2012 truly was in the changeable conditions but expects the questions to be answered tomorrow.
“Today was even harder than usual to interpret because of the weather. The track conditions changed very rapidly, making it very difficult to work through the programme we had set ourselves. Furthermore, as this is the first race, we chose to save a handful of kilometres on the engine. The opportunity to use one of the sets of tyres available today in the third session, will allow us to recover at least part of the programme tomorrow. Honestly, it's impossible to give any sort of assessment of the performance of the F2012 and on the prospects for this weekend. We had said we must wait until tomorrow's qualifying to know more, so you need to be patient for a further 24 hours! We too are very curious to know where we stand compared to the competitionâ€¦”