Alonso top in wet Mugello test
RAIN STOPPED PLAY: Ferrari's F1 pit crew help Spanish driver Fernando Alonso back into the garage at the Mugello track in Italy during the first day of the F1 official test session on May 1, 2012. Image: AFP
Author: ALAN BALDWIN
MUGELLO, Italy - Rain was pouring down here on Workers' Day but more than 15 000 fans turned out at the Mugello circuit in Italy to see Ferrari's Fernando Alonso lap fastest in Formula 1's first mid-season test since 2008.
The Spaniard, who clocked a best time of 1min12.444 at the Ferrari-owned track north of Florence, felt for the crowd on an afternoon red-flagged briefly due to a thunderstorm.
"It's a shame about the rain," the double World champion saaid. "It complicated the running of this first day of testing and it was a shame for the spectators who deserved to see more of a show."
The test is vital for his Italian team which is desperate to sort out a difficult car that has been off the pace despite Alonso's win against the odds in a rain-soaked 2012 Malaysian GP in March.
The rain prevented Ferrari and the 10 other teams present - only Spanish straggler HRT was absent - from carrying out a full day's work; there was only a small window of dry running in late morning. Some teams sat out the afternoon altogether to save tyres.
Alonso, who will hand over to Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa today (Wednesday), did 46 laps with the afternoon limited to practice starts.
Lotus changed its plans, with Kimi Raikkonen no longer scheduled to take part in the test and French team mate Romain Grosjean now slotted in for two days instead of one after Belgian reserve Jerome D'Ambrosio opened the test.
The team's trackside operations director, Alan Permane, announced: "We've opted for one driver for the next two days so we can make better use of the time after losing Tuesday afternoon's running."
'WE'LL GET THE INFO'
Australian Mark Webber was second on the time sheets after 24 laps for Red Bull. He said: "The weather wasn't great on Tuesday so we didn't get to do much running in the dry. We only got one decent run on slicks then it rained after lunch, With limited sets of wets (rain tyres) available, you can't do that much. We're hoping for better over the next couple of days.
"It's an important test. We have a lot of information to gather and, while today didn't quite work out as expected, I'm optimistic that over the next few days we'll get the information we need."
The Mugello test is the fourth and final one of the season for regular race drivers. Only a "young driver" test is scheduled between now and the end of the season.
Regular in-season testing is otherwise banned.