After three hours of free practice around the Bahrain Internation Circuit for Ferrari, Felipe Massa ended the day seventh fastest, with new teammate Fernando Alonso in ninth. The Brazilian completed a total of 49 laps of the newly-revised Sakhir circuit, while two-times World Champion Alonso managed 43 laps.
Ferrari will claim that the hugely varying fuel loads the teams used today make the results difficult to interpret, and with both drivers concentrating on race preparation rather than fast lap times, the team will not be unduly worried that they didn’t top the timesheets.
Massa and Alonso will use Saturday’s free practice session to search for quick lap times in preparation for qualifying. Both drivers were pleased with their achievements today, the only problem of any note was a loss of air from one of the tyres on Alonso’s car, which interrupted a long tyre assessment run.
Alonso said afterwards that any one of four teams would be challenging for the win, although there are others that can’t be ruled out. He even had something good to say about the new layout in Bahrain. “From what we could see, the indications we got from testing have been confirmed, with four teams that you could describe as favourites, although there could yet be a few surprises, Force India for example. The new track is not bad: it is fun, even if there are a few too many bumps which I hadn't spotted when I inspected it by bicycle.”
Massa agrees that rival teams will pose a tough challenge, and also revealed that he was little under the weather today. “I am quite happy with what we have seen today, even if it is difficult to get an accurate picture of how competitive we are compared to the others. We will definitely face stiff competition from many teams, but we were preparing as well as possible for Sunday's race and tomorrow morning, we will work on qualifying. I've got a bit of a temperature today, but I feel 100% for this start to the season.”
Chief Track Engineer Chris Dyer was also positive about the team’s progress. “We are reasonably pleased with the work done today. We had a very busy programme and we got through just about all of it: the only problem was a loss of air from a tyre on Alonso's car which interrupted his long run. We picked up a lot of data which we will use to decide on set-up and strategy for the rest of the weekend. It's hard to say where we are compared to the other teams in terms of performance and we will only find that out tomorrow afternoon. The new part of the circuit is rather narrow and at some points the surface is very bumpy, but it does not present any particular problems for the car.”