It was a relatively good day at the Circuit of the Americas for the Scuderia Ferrari team, with Fernando Alonso ending the day best of the rest behind the two Mercedes drivers in third place, with Kimi Raikkonen sixth.
Alonso ended up sixth in the opening session before moving up to third in the afternoon, although he was over a second slower than the pace of both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the front. He believes the race will run to a possible two-stop strategy, which the Spaniard believes opens up a number of different possibilities for him.
“Today we did some good testing, helped by the track conditions, which were definitely different to previous years,” insisted Alonso. “It’s possible the races they had here a few weeks ago helped to clean the track and as far as grip levels were concerned, we didn’t have too many problems. In the second session, the situation was slightly worse because of the strong wind, but that was expected over the weekend and did not affect our work too much.
-“The Soft compound seems to last less than expected, but we are well aware how much tyre performance can change as the track evolves. Certainly the race looks like it will be different to past editions, because the likelihood of two stops opens up different strategic possibilities.”
Team-mate Raikkonen initially struggle, ending the first session outside the top ten but moved up to sixth in a stronger second session. He felt the team are heading in the right direction with the set-up of his car after feeling better behind the wheel in the afternoon than he did in the morning.
“The day began with a few difficulties in the first free practice session, in which we concentrated on analysing various aerodynamic components,” said Raikkonen. “I did not feel comfortable with the set-up we had and controlling the car wasn’t easy. In the afternoon, we made some changes and the handling of the car was definitely better.
“On the Medium compound, I managed to do a good lap and I think if I had not been held up in traffic, I could have done even better. We still have a lot of work to do before tomorrow’s qualifying, but the improvement we saw from one session to the next seems to indicate we are going in the right direction. We just have to continue doing our best.”
After both free practice sessions, drivers were introduced to the new experimental Virtual Safety Car rules that are being investigated following Jules Bianchi’s horror crash in Japan, and Alonso felt it went well, although he insists there is still work to be done to perfect it.
“Today we tried the Virtual Safety Car system and I think that, for a first try it went well, although there is still much to do,” said Alonso. “All us drivers agree it’s a very worthwhile idea, we just need to get used to it.”