Ferrari’s difficulties in getting to grips with the F2012 was one of the threads that ran right through pre-season and Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa concede the team goes into this weekend’s Australian season-opener still in a position where they need more time to fully understand the car – but remain confident it will get there eventually.
In wake of a disappointing 2011, Ferrari had hoped to be winning from the off this season but in normal conditions that appears a rather forlorn hope at Albert Park given the problematic nature of the team’s winter. The inconsistent handling of the F2012 is something Ferrari still has to resolve but Alonso says the team is at least now sure of the development path it needs to go down to improve the situation, even if the opening four flyaways races may be about damage limitation.
“We definitely still need to improve a lot, working on our understanding of the F2012, adapting my driving style to a new car which, with the loss of aerodynamic downforce at the rear and the new Pirelli tyres, is a bit harder to drive,” the Spaniard told the official Ferrari website. “We know in which direction we need to go in terms of car development and that’s an important step. Sure, we will have to grit our teeth for the first few races, but first of all, we have to see exactly where we are in terms of being competitive and then give our all to bring home as many points as possible in this early stage of the championship.”
He added that the performance of the F2012 this weekend in relation to the team’s rivals would make setting targets for the subsequent races easier: “We have to stay cool and calm and take one step at a time, starting with the race in Melbourne, where we will get an initial impression. Once we know where we stand, then we can set ourselves more precise targets.”
Alonso’s team-mate Massa has publicly appeared more upbeat than some of Ferrari’s key personnel over the chances of fighting towards the front in Melbourne, although today was keen to point out that he didn’t disagree with technical director Pat Fry’s assessment that making the podium in Melbourne may be tough. The Brazilian though is adamant there is much untapped potential in the F2012.
“I already said this last week in Sao Paulo: in my head is the thought that we can fight for the podium but that doesn’t mean that I don’t agree with what Pat Fry said in Barcelona,” he said. “I know perfectly well that the tests didn’t go as we’d hoped because we had some very ambitious targets in terms of performance. We had some problems getting the best out of the exhaust system we had chosen and we had to go for a makeshift solution. That cost us precious time and obviously also a bit of performance. Only in the last two days could Fernando and I do some true and meaningful work on the set-up of the F2012. I remain convinced that this car has great potential: we must just find the way to get everything from it.”