The Scuderia Ferrari team arrived at Spa-Francorchamps with low expectations, but after their performance on track on Friday, those expectations should be a little higher after Fernando Alonso was the best of the rest behind the two Mercedes drivers in both sessions. Kimi Raikkonen had a less productive day after a few mechanical gremlins on his car, but overall the upgrades on their cars appeared to be working and showing genuine signs of progress.
Alonso had a good day on a track that most people before the weekend began were assuming would be dominated by Mercedes-power. The Spaniard showed that Ferrari had made progress, and he ended up third in both sessions, and was happy with his day’s efforts.
“Compared to the other race weekends, the story is a bit different here, because Spa is a high speed circuit and, after a month off, getting back to racing at a fantastic track like this is a real pleasure,” said Alonso. “It was nice to be able to run in the dry today. The weather is always changeable here and in fact, the possibility of rain is forecast for tomorrow, therefore, as usual, we will ensure we are ready for whatever comes our way.
“At this track and at Monza, engine performance counts for a lot. We know there is no magic solution but we will nevertheless try to optimise everything. The car behaved as we expected from our simulations and that is definitely something positive.”
Team-mate Raikkonen had a less successful day on track, finishing fifth in the morning session but slipping to fifteenth in the second after an electrical issue restricted his running. He felt the upgrades on the car were working, but knows his Saturday morning practice session will be busy as he aims to try and catch up with the development work.
“A difficult day, complicated by a series of setbacks which cost us valuable track time,” said Raikkonen. “In the morning, I had a brake problem, but once it was sorted, we were able to get through our planned programme for the first session. The new components we brought for this race seem to be working, but only after we have cross-referenced all the data will we be able to work out what is the best package to use for the rest of the weekend.
“In the afternoon, an electrical problem complicated our work, preventing us from carrying out the race simulation. Tomorrow, we can expect a busy free practice session, in which we will do our best to prepare the car for qualifying and the race.”
Technical Director Pat Fry insists the team are still working hard to bring the Ferrari up to scratch with its main rivals, and feels the team are slowly but surely making gains, and this was seen by Alonso’s two third places on Friday. However, he was disappointed that Raikkonen had the electrical issue on his Ferrari that cost the Finn the use of some of the on-board systems.
“The Spa circuit is a very enjoyable one for the drivers and at the same time it presents a great challenge for we engineers, especially this year because of the parameters linked to the new Power Unit,” said Fry. “In order to gather as much data as possible, we chose to run different programmes with our drivers. Unfortunately, in the second session, Kimi’s work was affected by an electrical problem, which although it didn’t prevent him running, did mean he couldn’t make the most of all the systems.
“In the first and third sectors, top speed counts the most, while in the middle one, driveability and aerodynamic downforce come into play more and that makes finding the right set-up especially demanding, even more so when looking to the race, because while extra downforce can be an advantage in the second sector, it slows the cars on the straights, making it harder to attack and defend in the race.
“We are working hard on the efficiency of the car in general and on the thermal energy side of the Power Unit, but I think that at tracks like this one and Monza, which highlights these characteristics on our rivals’ cars, we will have to try and defend with all means available and attack where and when possible.”