One hundred and thirty five laps up and down the streets of the Principality, equivalent to 450 km, culminating in the best two free practice sessions of the season. Maybe it’s down to the fact practice is on Thursday rather than Friday, maybe it was the tyres, or more likely, it’s the characteristics of the track, but up until now in 2011, a Ferrari has never set the best time of the day.
Fernando Alonso: “In Monaco it’s mainly a question of having a good feel for the car: the more the driver has, the harder he can push, lap after lap. It seems we are a bit more competitive than elsewhere, although one has to adopt the usual caution linked to the unknown factor of how much fuel the others were running. However, the reason is very simple in that here, the aerodynamics count for less and so we are suffering less. On a track with the lowest average speed, some weaknesses are hidden by other factors, such as the mechanical side and the engine. I immediately felt comfortable here, right from the morning, so I was able to push harder and harder, because the car was reacting well and I had confidence in it. I am pleased, but we know this is just the first day and that the Red Bulls could be hiding a bit, before coming out for Saturday’s qualifying. Saturday will be a much more stressful day because here, the slightest error carries a heavy penalty. We must try to take some risks, because we need to close the gap to the best. As for the tyres, I think that their performance is reasonably similar to what we saw in winter testing, even though temperatures are now much higher: compared to the other races, there is not such a big difference between the prime and the options, or at least that’s the initial impression.”
Felipe Massa: “I am reasonably happy with the car, even if there is still some oversteer, especially with the Supersoft. Compared to Barcelona, I reckon we will be better equipped to fight: it’s not like on other occasions when it was clear we could not get the tyres to work. There were moments when I was a bit on the limit, so that I even found myself brushing the barriers at least three times. I did a long run on the option to try and find its limit in terms of wear. Overtaking will be difficult, as usual at this circuit: but maybe thanks to the KERS it will be possible to overtake a car that is struggling with its tyres, although it will never be easy. Traffic? Here it’s impossible to avoid it: today I found myself in a position where I was holding up Fernando, but I had a McLaren ahead of me, which in turn had slowed me down.”
Pat Fry: “A good start to this very special weekend that takes place against this always incredible backdrop. Today we concentrated mainly on finding the best set-up for the car and on checking the behaviour of the two types of tyre that Pirelli has brought for this track, one of which, the Supersoft is making its debut at a race. From what we could see, the times are pretty consistent, but we know that the track here changes from Thursday to Saturday, so we cannot take anything for granted. This morning we checked a handful of minor aerodynamic updates – the 150º Italia is basically the same as it was at the Catalunya circuit – and then we tried to deliver Felipe and Fernando a balanced car in which they could have full confidence to push to the limit. Now we have a bit more time than usual to prepare as well as possible for qualifying and the race. There are some areas on which need to improve and we can, but from what we have seen today, at least it looks as though we are on the right road to being in the running.”