Fernando Alonso does not agree with Lewis Hamilton's assessment of Thursday that Red Bull will have a performance advantage over the field at the beginning of 2012, and said that he expects Ferrari to be on the pace from the start.
The Briton said yesterday that it was likely Red Bull would start next year faster than its rivals, just as it has done for the past two years, and that he hoped McLaren would be able to close the gap quicker than it managed to in 2011. But Alonso, who like McLaren's Hamilton and Jenson Button, has spent much of this season chasing the dominant Red Bulls – and in particular Sebastian Vettel – reckons there is no reason why Ferrari can't begin next year on a level footing.
"I think Red Bull has been very dominant from the middle of 2009 until now and I think no one doubts next year they will again start as one of the favorites for the third consecutive year," he said. "But with the stability of the rules, either Ferrari or McLaren, with the cars that we have now, I don't think we will too far off Red Bull or hopefully be in front so I think it will be pretty close at the start of next year anyway."
Alonso was second fastest in Friday's free practice in Belgium, but said it was difficult to read anything into form with the weather having been so unpredictable. Rain typically affected both 90-minute sessions at Spa.
"I think this is the fifth consecutive Friday that we have changeable weather conditions and we had rain in the practice again so not much information for us from a tire point of view," he said. "But for the team it is always important, there are new parts coming at each grand prix so we try to make some laps with all of these. And now the engineers have enough data to check this afternoon, tonight and tomorrow to decide which new parts will be on the car tomorrow and which will wait for more races."
Alonso added that while the weather forecast appears to be dry for Sunday's race, he welcomed the potential for rain because it offered Red Bull's pursuers in the championship the chance to take a gamble and put some pressure on Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
"We are ready to take whatever comes tomorrow in qualifying; the race it seems there is more a chance of a dry race – but the weather for quali is 50/50, so we will prepare to be there," he said. "For sure, changeable conditions is a gamble sometimes and for the people behind the championship if we take a risk and everything goes wrong we don't lose so much because we are already behind.
"In the case of Red Bull, in these changeable conditions, to make a wrong decision the price is higher. So maybe we can take advantage by taking more risks."