A small room in the temporary Ferrari offices at the back of the paddock is where Fernando Alonso began his official duties today for the second round of the World Championship. After dismissing thoughts of a repeat of the 2012 race here, where the Spaniard drove brilliantly from ninth on the grid to win, with the words, “that’s something you only see once in life,” the topic turned to the “new F1”. “I think we need to give more time to see how the races are and how the show is and how the people react to this new Formula 1,” began the Ferrari man. “There was a lot of talk before the Australian race about how exciting this new Formula 1 would be and how many cars will finish, maybe zero! When 15 cars finish and there are not many problems and not many overtakings, that was not what the fans expected.
“In our case, we need to see how the next races go in terms of our own performance to learn how we can quickly develop the car to be in better shape. In Australia we were not happy with the performance we showed and we need to improve as quickly as possible.”
If these comments had a negative tinge to them, Fernando was quick to emphasise the positives. “I believe we can fight for the championship,” he assured the media. “We have more potential than we showed in Australia. We need to put everything in place and then we will have a better weekend. The team has the facilities and the talent to do a very good job. We can be strong and we will do better, I’m sure. It’s not been a perfect start. It seems like a repetition of the last couple of years, but these are different rules and a different rate of development applies. Our hopes are perfectly intact.
I’d have liked to start the season with a podium, but getting both cars to the flag is a good result, which can give us confidence, especially on the reliability front. I had some problems with the electric motor at the start and had to make a few changes from the steering wheel, but after the first ten laps everything went well. When I managed to pass Hulkenberg after the pit stop my pace was definitely better, although it was impossible to overtake. 35 seconds down on the leader is too big a gap and to work out what we need to do to close that gap, we will need to analyse the race, work out what are the strong and weak points on the car and with that in mind, the laps I did behind Nico can provide very useful information. We are a great team and I have total faith in our guys, because they did a great job today. We still have lots to learn about this new Formula 1, as the race was very strange and very difficult. But it’s only the start. We must concentrate on doing better in Malaysia
“I think fifth is a good result in such a difficult qualifying session, especially as it’s the first time we’ve run in the wet with the new car and because from this position, a podium finish is possible, which is worth a lot of points. We were lucky in Q1, when the rain came just after I’d done my quick lap and in Q2 we were also able to run when the track was at its best. I knew that the results of free practice did not reflect the reality of the situation and that the hierarchy would only become clear today, with Mercedes a step ahead of the rest. It would also give a clearer picture than the one we had from testing, when we couldn’t be sure what the other teams were testing. Now we have seen in which areas we need to improve and the aim is to do so in the next few races. I don’t think the consumption factor will change things too much, because when saving fuel, all the cars lose half a second. On top of that, the weather will come into play tomorrow as the forecast isn’t clear. The priority is to finish the race and to do better than the others in the coming months. I am sure that with practice, we will learn how to get the most out of the car and simplify all the procedures”
On the first Friday of the season, there’s always a bit more tension. It’s the start of a new championship and there is the feeling of general expectation to see how things we worked on during the winter are functioning. Overall, this was a positive day for us and even if there was an element of nervousness because of the complexity introduced by the new technical regulations, everything went well. The team did a super job and we had no problems. The track improved from the first session to the second, with more grip compared to the morning and there was also more wind. Running the soft tyre certainly helped, as the extra grip meant the times came down, but it’s impossible to have a clear idea of how competitive we are, because as usual, Friday results don’t mean much. To know more, we must wait until everyone is running in the same trim.
A day of mixed training for Fernando Alonso as part of an initiative organised by Scuderia Ferrari sponsor, Santander. The Maranello team’s driver made himself available for filming and photography while going through a multi-discipline training programme. Fernando began with some cross training, based on the military style programme, which involved jumping in and out of tyres as quickly as possible. It’s an exercise that works on reflexes and muscle tone.
The second part of the programme saw Alonso tackle a kart race, the discipline that is the first career step for all aces of the track and even if they reach the heights of Formula 1, drivers love to return to these machines when they can. After that, Fernando was able to enjoy one of his favourite pastimes, cycling, which is something the Spaniard uses as one of his main fitness tools in between races and during the winter.
The day of training came to an end at the Dubai Football Academy, with another sport that Fernando, along with millions of others, loves, namely football. He took part in a game between two teams that also included former Real Madrid player Michel Salgado and no less than Diego Armando Maradona. On this occasion, Alonso had to bow to the Golden Boy, but only by a score of 5-4…
Fernando Alonso ended his two day testing stint in the F14 T and summed up the second session of the season with words of caution and confidence. “Every day we learn a bit more about the car and its systems. We have made a major step forward compared to the first test and the whole team is working well. Of course there is still a lot to understand and there are many elements we want to learn how to deal with as well as possible. Even the performance seems to be thereabouts, but now’s not the time to try and chase it. It will be a challenge for everyone to be ready for the first race of the season and that is our aim at the moment. There is still time to go looking for lap times. I have to say the team has done an incredible job: things went very well over the winter and we are now halfway through the pre season tests and look in very good shape. Despite the bad weather in Jerez we managed to complete a lot of laps. Here, in two days, we have done 161, so on that front we can be pleased. The work at Maranello has been well done and now it’s down to us to make the most of all its potential.”
With all the extra technology on this year’s cars, it’s not easy for the drivers to get the hang of so many new things. “I am beginning to learn more about the car, all its systems and finding the buttons is becoming more automatic and obviously that means we can go quicker and improve,” said Alonso at the end of the day. “There are still some small problems which we must try and resolve, just like when you buy a new domestic appliance, but that’s to be expected, given the radical new design. But every time we go out in the car, it gets easier and confidence grows and that’s why I think the most crucial test in performance terms will be the next one.”
When it came to a hierarchy down pit lane, Fernando would not be drawn. “I don’t think there’s any sense in that. We can say the Mercedes powered cars are competitive, and we can say we are competitive, but I’m sure that at the first race, the Renault runners will also be there. This is only a test and we won’t get a picture of the hierarchy until we are on track for the first Grand Prix in Australia.”
The biggest question mark at the moment hangs over reliability. “It’s hard to know what could happen in the first part of the season. Reliability will be vital and I dare say that in the first races, getting to the finish will mean you have got a good result. However, there has been so much work done at Maranello that we can definitely aim for that”.
First day of testing for Scuderia Ferrari and the ten other Formula 1 teams, working from today to Saturday at Bahrain’s Sakhir Circuit.
The second test session of the year got underway with Fernando Alonso back behind the wheel of the F14 T number 14 car. The team resumed the programme it began in Jerez two weeks ago, working on further checking of all aspects of the new power unit systems and some aerodynamic testing. Today, particular attention was paid to fine tuning the new brake by wire system, to optimise the balance of the car.
This first day went off without encountering any unexpected difficulties and Fernando was able to complete a total of 64 laps, the quickest in a time of 1:37.879.
“It’s nice to be driving again, especially when you have more reference points compared to the previous time, which means you get a better feeling for the car” – said Fernando to www.ferrari.com – “We are also at a track that is more representative, with normal temperatures, where it’s been easier to understand tyre behaviour. We are in a phase where we are discovering things and with every lap, we learn something new. For everyone, there is still a lot to do to be well prepared for Melbourne, so it will be important to make the most of every day we have available to us.”
Testing continues at this circuit tomorrow, again with Fernando Alonso on track.
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Fernando Alonso made his first on-track appearance of the season at the wheel of the F14 T on the penultimate day of testing at Jerez de la Frontera.
It didn’t take long for Fernando to get to grips with the new car. In the morning, he worked on a programme centred on aerodynamic mapping measurement, while in the afternoon work on development continued with particular attention paid to car set-up. It was another profitable day for the Scuderia.
Alonso completed a total of 58 laps, the fastest in a time of 1:25.495.
“It’s always nice to be driving again, especially in front of your home crowd” – said Fernando to www.ferrari.com – “I’ve missed it for a few months now, even if I’ve spent hours in the simulator in Maranello and the feeling I got from the track was as exciting as ever. Now we have a lot of work ahead of us, but we have a very big potential to make progress and that’s encouraging.”
Testing continues at this circuit tomorrow, the fourth and final day of work at the Jerez circuit with Fernando Alonso.