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Five teams in the running for wins - Alonso
Fernando Alonso thinks there are four or five teams in the running for victories alongside Ferrari this year.
The Spaniard signed off from pre-season testing with just five laps on Saturday after a washout at the Circuit de Catalunya. In dry conditions on Friday he set the second fastest time of the week, only bettered by Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes.
Alonso has maintained Schumacher could be a serious rival throughout the seven-time champion's shaky return to the sport, and now sees him as one of several drivers in a position to challenge him for victories at the start of the 2011 season.
"I think Mercedes has shown it has made a good step forward compared to the start of the tests and can be one of the favourites for Melbourne," said the Spaniard. "It's normal that, with a quick car, Michael should immediately be competitive. It's not a surprise because I still think there's a significant group made of Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes, Renault and maybe Williams, who along with us, can aspire to victory in the first few races."
He said a clearer picture will emerge at the first grand prix in two weeks time, but added that Ferrari's position in the pecking order would not change his or the team's approach.
"Then, we will have a more realistic picture of the situation and a smaller group of teams who will fight it out for the championship and we hope to be part of it. I don't think it makes much difference to us to be ahead of or behind the Red Bull, who are maybe the favourites, in terms of the work we have to do: to catch up you have to multiply your efforts to do it in a hurry and if you have the upper hand, then you work just as hard to maintain it. That is the way it is in Formula One. The aim is always to have the quickest car in the pack. Other elements can play a key part at certain moments, but in the long term, the one with the quickest package wins."
After an impeccable reliability record in testing, Alonso is confident Ferrari is going into the season opener in the best possible shape.
"Overall, I think we will arrive in Melbourne in a 100% state of readiness, but whether or not that will be enough to win, we will not know until we are there in Australia," he said. "I feel confident, just as I did last year going into the start of the season. We are in good shape, even if we know we are not racing alone out there. We want to win, but that does not mean that if it did not happen, it would be a disaster: sport cannot be just a question of victory or defeat.
"If we win it will be fantastic, but if we don't then we will try again the following year, as Ferrari has always done. One thing's for sure, we will have to push on the development, like we did last year. For example, at Albert Park, I hope we will manage to bring a few updates, especially to the front wing, which can still give us a fraction more in performance terms."