JENSON BUTTON and Fernando Alonso experienced two starkly different debuts with their new teams yesterday, and for the reigning world champion it proved to be an uncomfortable day.
Both Button and Alonso have had time to settle in and adapt to life with McLaren and Ferrari respectively, yet there was a gaping chasm between them in terms of time at the end of their first test day.
Alonso slotted into his car with consummate ease, to such an extent that within 25 laps he had already surpassed the previous best time of the week posted on Tuesday by team-mate Felipe Massa.
The champion of 2005 and 2006 finished the day with a best lap of one minute 11.470 seconds for the 2.5km Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, where an astonishing 36,000 fans endured a four-mile jam this morning to see their hero in action.
Alonso finished a day that comprised 127 laps over 0.6secs clear of fellow Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa as Sauber continued to surprise, and a quarter-of-a-second quicker than Massa.
As for Button, he burned the midnight oil last night in a bid to simply find the correct seat fitting that took another two hours to resolve once the session started and restricted him to just three laps within that time.
Button eventually finished fifth of seven on the timesheets as he was also behind seven-time champion Michael Schumacher in his Mercedes, and even teenager Jaime Alguersuari for Toro Rosso, with the gap to Alonso 1.5secs.
It was a very different first day then for a man who knew on the first lap last year in his Brawn GP he had a race-winning, title-challenging car.
“It’s been a long day,” said Button, whose manner was in contrast yesterday to team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who was relaxed and smiling after his opening day in the new McLaren.
“I finished about 1am trying to get the seat right in the car. This morning was then tough because we had to change a lot within the car.
“But I feel good now, I feel comfortable with the height in the car, which is always important for your confidence.”
Compare Button’s shaky start with Alonso.
It would appear that after the first three days of testing, with a Ferrari leading the way on each occasion, they will be the team to beat this year, Alonso in particular.
From the 36,000 fans here, and the millions more in Spain, Italy and around the world, the expectations will now be high.
“It was my first time in a Ferrari, so a very emotional day,” said Alonso.
“With the car, I had many things to adjust, like the seat, pedals, steering wheel, helmet, which is a new brand for me, so there were many things to check and adapt to.
“But the support of the fans was great, and the feeling, atmosphere, passion of everybody within Ferrari is unbelievable.
“Of course, expectations are always high, and this year being with Ferrari, people will expect a lot from us.
“But there is nothing we can do, other than our maximum, to try to be competitive, professional and quick.
“If we do this people will be happy, and if we’re not competitive, or we can’t win, it won’t be because we didn’t miss something or didn’t give 100%.
“It will be because somebody else did a better job.”
At this stage, given Ferrari’s resources, that appears unlikely, but these are very early days.
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