Montmelo, 10 May – It was as though the collective Formula 1 psyche decided it had to make up for the fact it has gone without any track action for three weeks, because rain or shine, the Catalunya circuit saw constant action for all three hours of today’s free practice. The true reason naturally has been the arrival up and down pit lane of a raft of technical updates and Scuderia Ferrari was no exception to that rule. Furthermore, Pirelli provided some extra rubber in the form of a “prototype” tyre just for Friday use, in addition to the Medium and newly-modified Hard compounds. With aerodynamics being the most important performance booster in the sport under current regulations, inevitably, most of the aforementioned updates were related to this area and unfortunately, a wet and slippery track is not the perfect test bench to evaluate them. Therefore, the bulk of the Scuderia’s programme on this front had to be shifted to the afternoon, without neglecting the basics of ensuring the F138s will perform to their maximum in qualifying and the race. It made for a very busy second session.
Generally, it was a positive day for the Prancing Horse, with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa setting the first and second fastest times respectively in the morning, ahead of a surprising Jean-Eric Vergne for Toro Rosso. In the afternoon, it looked as though reigning champions Red Bull Racing would make a clean sweep of the Friday “front row,” but that didn’t take into account an excellent lap from Fernando which meant the Ferrari split the two blue cars, with the Spaniard just 17 thousandths off Sebastian Vettel’s time. In third place, Mark Webber was the only other driver to break the 1 minute 23 seconds barrier. In the second F138, Felipe was fifth behind the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen, while Lewis Hamilton rounded off the top six for Mercedes. Between them, the Scuderia Ferrari drivers racked up a total of 112 laps over the course of the day; 55 for Fernando and 57 for Felipe. Tomorrow, the final hour of free practice in the morning should run to more usual lines, with everyone’s efforts more focussed on the afternoon’s qualifying session and the following day’s 66 lap Spanish Grand Prix.