Friday, May 20, 2011

Fernando's blog : a race at home !

Here we are with the Spanish Grand Prix just round the corner, a race that has a special feel about it for me. I will arrive in Barcelona tonight, because right from tomorrow morning I’ve got an appointment in my diary: attending the launch of the first ever Ferrari Store to be opened in Spain, in the heart of the Catalan capital, on one of the most important streets in the city, Paseo de Gracia. Felipe will be there, as will Marc who will be very much the main man given he is from Barcelona. Then it will be time to head off to the track for the usual Thursday jobs, most of them dealing with media work.

It’s always nice to race in Spain. I love the feeling of warmth one gets from the fans right from the very first free practice sessions. Day after day, you can see the grandstands fill with flags – the red of Ferrari and the azure blue of my compatriots from Asturias – and that is a special feeling for me. My win here in 2006 is still one of the best moments of my career and it would be a dream come true to do it again with Ferrari sooner or later.

I know that you all want to know if that might happen already this weekend, but I am not able to give you an answer to that. On paper, we do not yet have the potential to be in a straight fight for the win, with one team clearly the favourite in this regard. However, we know things can change quickly in our sport and, in Turkey, finally we managed to bring home a podium finish. The road is still long, but I believe we have at least started down it going in the right direction.

These past few days, the team has worked so hard in Maranello on developing the 150° Italia and in order to be as well prepared as possible for these two back to back races, given that next week will be back on track in Monaco. During the days I spent in the factory I could feel that everyone there really wants to fight back: the feeling is so strong you can almost touch it, whether you are speaking with people in meetings or as you walk around the Gestione Sportiva. Both Felipe and I have done so many kilometres in the simulator and we feel that the updates being introduced will see us make progress in terms of performance. Whether or not this will be enough to close the gap to the best, we will only find out over the weekend, because we cannot ignore the fact that the others have not been twiddling their thumbs. We will see who has been the cleverest in the development championship.

The Catalunya Circuit is one of the ones we know best because traditionally it is a favourite venue for winter testing. This year, we have already had two sessions there, one at the end of February and the other in early March.

This means we will all arrive there with a pretty good idea of what settings we will use as a baseline on the car to start the weekend, even if the conditions we will encounter will be very different, especially in terms of temperature.

It will be very important to run continuously in Friday’s two free practice sessions to fine tune the car and check out the behaviour of the new technical components. It will also be vital to study the performance and wear of the tyres. In the race simulations we did during testing we saw significant degradation, especially on the front left tyre, which is put under major stress: we will see if, with different temperatures, that situation changes. Compared to previous races at this track I think we will see more overtaking, especially down to the difference in tyre performance that could be a factor during the race: further reason to come to the track to watch the Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon. It would be nice to jump on the podium again and be able to salute all our fans from there: as far as me and the team are concerned, as usual, we will be giving it our very best shot.

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