Fernando Alonso thinks there is little separating the top teams in Formula 1 at the end of preseason testing, as he predicts that it will be small details that will decide the outcome of the first races of the campaign.
Although many had singled out Red Bull Racing as favorite after its strong winter testing performance, a series of updates on the Ferrari helped Alonso deliver a strong race simulation run at Barcelona this week to hint at a very strong challenge from him too. Rather than feel that his team is playing catch-up to Red Bull, Alonso says his confidence is as high as it was at the start of the last campaign, when Ferrari had gone into the year fighting for the championship.
"I feel the same," said Alonso, after wrapping up his testing on a washed-out final day at Barcelona. "We had a very good winter last year and we arrived in Bahrain in a good and a strong position – similar to Red Bull and other teams. We were there in the fight.
"This year I am very happy with the winter, and I am as confident as I was last year. [But] I am realistic, so I know that we are not alone. We are racing very close with Red Bull and with other teams, so it is up to us in Melbourne, Malaysia and China to do a better weekend than them. It will be decided by small details, as I think the performance of the cars at the moment are very close. There is not one that is completely ahead of everyone, so we need to make our best."
Despite feeling that the teams at the front are quite closely matched, he says winter testing has not yet provided a firm answer as to which team has the best car.
"There is not a clear picture at the moment of where we are in terms of performance," he said. "We know that the car is performing well, and we are more or less happy. We know that we make a lot of mileage in the winter testing, which is always a good sign for us. All those laps, and all that experience with the new car, I am sure it helps the team to arrive really 100 percent in Australia. But our 100 percent, we don't know if it is enough to win. We are happy with the job done until now though."
Alonso believes that the season again will be decided by how quickly teams can develop their cars throughout the year.
"For sure for the championship, the season will be very long in terms of developing the car," he said. "Every race we need to bring updates. For Australia, hopefully, we will bring some new parts that will arrive there maybe at the last moment, and that will then be the job for the whole season.
"Favorites? I think it is still the top four teams – McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull Racing and Ferrari, and maybe this year Renault, and Williams also is having a good winter. So it is very open for Australia. Hopefully we can be there and we can be fighting for the podium, and for the victory. In three or four races there will be a much clearer picture and hopefully we will be there."