Im­prove­ments made to Fer­rari’s car seem to have paid off

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

VA­LEN­CIA, Spain: Im­prove­ments to Fer­rari’s car paid off as Fer­nando Alonso com­pleted the fastest lap on the first day of prac­tice yes­ter­day ahead of to­mor­row’s Euro­pean Grand Prix.

The Span­ish driver posted a lap of 1 minute, 39.283 sec­onds in the sec­ond ses­sion at the 5.5km Va­len­cia street cir­cuit, as Fer­rari’s vaunted aero­dy­namic im­prove­ments took ef­fect.

“What I can say is that the car is com­pet­i­tive,” Alonso said. “It’s im­por­tant to fight so I hope that we can be strong to­mor­row, fight­ing. I’m happy with the car to­day.”

The Red Bull duo of Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and Mark Web­ber were sec­ond and third fastest, re­spec­tively. Vet­tel was 0.056 sec­onds be­hind in the sec­ond ses­sion and Web­ber was 0.144 sec­onds back.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamil­ton was fifth-fastest, with team­mate Jen­son But­ton ninth.

Ear­lier, Nico Ros­berg of Mercedes set the pace in the first ses­sion with a lap of 1:41.175.

Alonso had played down Fer­rari’s new aero­dy­namic pack­age, which in­cludes the team’s ver­sion of the blown dif­fuser ex­haust sys­tem that ac­cel­er­ates air flow and aids grip. Re­nault and Mercedes have also in­stalled the dif­fuser, which has al­ready helped lift Red Bull into sec­ond place in this sea­son’s con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onship.

Alonso’s cau­tion was val­i­dated when he was only ninth­fastest in the first ses­sion though he was able to pick up the pace in sec­ond prac­tice.

“I think we can be com­pet­i­tive here to­mor­row, but it’s never go­ing to be easy,” Alonso said. “Red Bull is very strong, McLaren is very strong. I think we have all brought some­thing here so it’s just a mat­ter of do­ing a good job to­mor­row.”

The Spa­niard has not won a race since the sea­son-open­ing Bahrain Grand Prix in March.

Hamil­ton, who won in Turkey and Canada, leads the world cham­pi­onship with 109 points. World cham­pion But­ton is sec­ond on 106. Web­ber is third on 103 points, ahead of Alonso on 94 and Vet­tel on 90.

But­ton ac­knowl­edged that his car has fewer up­grades in place for this week­end than some of McLaren’s com­peti­tors. “There’s a lot go­ing on, so we just have to make sure we get our heads down and fo­cus on mak­ing sure we get the best out of what we have,” he said.

“We have a car we know very well, so it’s just about fine­tun­ing and get­ting the best out of it for the week­end.”

In hot and clear con­di­tions the track tem­per­a­ture rose to around 45°C dur­ing the sec­ond ses­sion.

Mercedes’ new ex­haust sys­tem has had mixed re­sults so far.

Ros­berg man­aged the fastest lap in the first ses­sion though he dropped to fourth in the af­ter­noon.

He was quicker than his Mercedes team­mate Michael Schu­macher through­out the day. The seven-time cham­pion’s times were eighth fastest in first prac­tice and 11th in the sec­ond.

“The team has done a good job on our up­grades and I’m sure that they have im­proved our com­pet­i­tive­ness,” Ros­berg said. “We have a few bits and pieces to re­solve overnight but we are on the right track which is nice to see. We know that our race pace is bet­ter than our qual­i­fy­ing per­for­mance at the moment so if we can get our qual­i­fy­ing right, we should make good progress this week­end.”

Hamil­ton con­ceded that things looked much tighter at the top, but was pos­i­tive about his team’s chances.

“It wasn’t too bad to­day,” said the 2008 cham­pion. “The oth­ers are look­ing very, very com­pet­i­tive, but mostly on the sin­gle lap rather than the race pace. I think our race pace is closer but through the high­speed cor­ners it is dif­fi­cult for us to touch them.” – AP and Sapa-AFP


FAST PARTS: Up­grades for this week­end brought out by Fer­rari had the de­sired ef­fect, Fer­nando Alonso of Spain find­ing enough speed to top the time ta­ble at the sec­ond free prac­tice at the street cir­cuit in Va­len­cia, Spain, yes­ter­day.

HOLD­ING PAT­TERN: McLaren pi­lot Lewis Hamil­ton.

BACK ON PACE: Fer­rari driver Fer­nando Alonso.

TURN­ING HEADS: Mercedes whizz-kid Nico Ros­berg.

NEXT BEST: Red Se­bas­tian Vet­tel.


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