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'We have to grit our teeth for the first few races' - Alonso
Fernando Alonso is expecting a tough ride at the opening races of the season after admitting Ferrari still has a lot of work to do on its 2012 car.
Ferrari has been sending out mixed signals since its tricky pre-season testing campaign, with technical director Pat Fry ruling out a podium finish at the first race but Felipe Massa insisting a top-three finish is possible. Team principal Stefano Domenicali has warned against making any judgements until the start of the European season and Alonso agrees the first races will be tough.
"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," Alonso told Ferrari's official 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. I know the fans always expect to hear me say that we can obtain such and such a result, but the truth is that we cannot say with certainty where we are. We must wait until Saturday evening at six, after qualifying and a bit longer still, until after this first run of races outside Europe.
"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. One thing's for sure, with the will to win that inhabits everyone at Ferrari and with the history we have behind us, we feel a responsibility to do well: for us, for our fans and for our partners and that goes for all of us. We must all pull together to reach this target.
Ferrari has been campaigning for more in-season testing for some time and Alonso reckons the current testing schedule, which allows for three pre-season tests and one in-season test, is not enough.
"This year, we have had even less time than usual to drive the car, given that pre-season testing was shortened even more: six days are definitely not enough to satiate my need to drive," he added. "I have said it many times in the past, ours is the only sport where training is banned. Imagine asking Nadal to try out a new racket for just six days or a football player to train just six times before the World Cup!
"It would be nice to do more testing, but not to the detriment of the races, because nothing beats competition. In fact, after so many kilometres of testing and retesting, finally there's a whiff of sport in the air. I miss the excitement of qualifying, the thrill of being on the start grid waiting for the lights to go out, the adrenalin rush of the charge to the first corner, in fact I miss everything that makes Formula One such an amazing sport. It is always difficult to draw conclusions from testing. Everyone works according to their own programme and you cannot make a true comparison."