Fernando Alonso believes Ferrari “on the pace” on home turf even though he didn’t get the opportunity to carry out a race simulation at Monza today. The championship leader had a hectic day with technical gremlins halting him in both sessions, first an engine failure in FP1 then a gearbox problem in FP2.
Both units were kept intentionally for free practice so will be changed without penalty and Alonso can now concentrate on finding the extra pace to beat the McLarens who edged him out today.
“Today almost everything happened, with various mechanical problems and we did not manage to test everything we wanted, but all the parts that failed can be changed and thanks to Felipe we have all the information we need to do well in qualifying and the race. Even if today was complicated, it was still positive: it’s good that everything happened today, because we must try and avoid any problems tomorrow and Sunday. I am optimistic about the car balance, which we did not have to change between FP1 and 2. I expect we will see different strategies in qualifying because there seems to be very little difference between the Medium and Hard tyres. In the race we will have to use both and so in the end it balances out. Compared to Spa, here we are on the pace, maybe we have a bit more downforce and make up a bit of time at the two Lesmos and the second chicane, while we are losing out in the first sector with the two long straights. We will analyse these details this evening and tomorrow we will try and improve also in terms of top speed, which was probably our weak point today.”
Teammate Felipe Massa enjoyed a trouble-free Friday and matched Alonso for pace to go fourth fastest. The Brazilian noted that there wasn’t a great time difference between the two tyre compounds which may be a factor in qualifying.
“A very positive day because I managed to make the most of the track time, completing all the programme we had planned for this Friday. I did a lot of laps on both types of tyre, in the morning and the afternoon, including a long run to evaluate the handling as well as possible. At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between the two compounds in terms of performance, as we could also see from the other drivers’ times, but we will have to see how it goes tomorrow, because the difference could become greater as the track conditions improve, which will be an important factor for qualifying and the race. I am also pleased with my lap times, as I was always up there with the quickest cars in both sessions. We will be trying to improve the car set-up still further tomorrow, but I am confident for the rest of the weekend. I am very pleased to be here in Monza in front of our fans and I really hope that this positive day is the right start to get a great result for them!”
Technical Director Pat Fry is expecting a close fight for pole position tomorrow with the Mercedes-powered teams providing the opposition today.
“The mechanics definitely did not have time to get bored today! We had various reliability problems on Fernando’s car that meant he was unable to get through his planned programme. It’s very unusual for us to have three problems in three separate areas – engine, brakes and gearbox – on the same day, therefore we will have to look very closely at what happened, to ensure it doesn’t happen again. As far as the gearbox and engine are concerned, they were units we were not planning to use in the race, so we will not incur any penalties tomorrow. For his part, Felipe managed to do a lot of kilometres and gathered important data for the team, both on the different aerodynamic configurations and on the behaviour of the two compounds – Hard and Medium – which Pirelli has chosen for this race. From what we could see, the field is very close and adopting the right level of aero downforce will be a key factor in qualifying and the race. As for the tyres, it’s hard to say from what we saw today which performs better: we still have an hour of free practice tomorrow to learn more.”