D'Ambrosio: So far, so good
Grosjean's stand-in 12th fastest after opening practice
By Mike Wise at Monza. Last Updated: September 7, 2012 6:34pm
Jerome D'Ambrosio admitted to being thrown in at the deep end during opening practice at the Italian Grand Prix, but the Lotus reserve said he was happy with the progress he made.
Called up to replace Romain Grosjean after the latter picked up a one-race ban for causing a pile-up in last weekend's Belgian Grand Prix, D'Ambrosio ended session two 12th fastest overall.
The Belgian's best time was just over half-a-second down on that set by team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, with D'Ambrosio content to make progress one step at a time.
"I think it was a fairly good day, definitely not an easy one with lots of things to do. Coming here in Monza, it's a low downforce track, it's definitely a challenge. I'd say so far, so good definitely," he said.
"We made steady progress between FP1 and FP2 so that's important for me. I'll stay relaxed and just try to do the best that I can."
D'Ambrosio admitted that re-acquainting himself with Lotus's E20 - a car he last drove at the Mugello test in May - was made more difficult by the unique characteristics of the Monza circuit.
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"It's not after two sessions, especially here at Monza, that you have a full understanding of the car. I have to fine tune it as well to my driving, there's a bit of work on that, which we've really improved between the two sessions," he said.
"Monza is a low downforce track, so the cars are always more nervous, a bit more difficult to drive but that's a good challenge. I love being here: it's a great track, you can really feel the speed of an F1 car."
The former Virgin/Masrussia driver also said that putting in a strong qualifying performance could be more difficult on the high-speed track than elsewhere.
"I think it's one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, tracks to nail a lap because of the rhythm: you have long straights and few corners. You never really pick a rhythm," D'Ambrosio said.
"Braking points have to be right; you have more information and an estimation of where to do it but once you get them wrong, the whole corner is wrong. It's not like a semi-fast corner where you can manage to go round it."
D'Ambrosio also gave an indication of the performance differential that exists on the Formula 1 grid.
Asked to compare this weekend's car with that he raced last year, the 26-year-old added: "It's a very low downforce track but I probably still feel as much downforce, or maybe more downforce, than I had last year in Monaco.
"But once you push a car to its limit, you will always start to slide. It will always start to get nervous and I'm at that point now with this car."