Fernando Alonso has conceded that Ferrari may not be heading into the new season with the quickest car, but he still thinks it is too early to judge where the F2012 stands in the pecking order right now.
While its main title rivals are already at the stage in their testing programs where they are conducting race simulation runs, Ferrari is still compiling aerodynamic data and running with a variety of sensors. Alonso is not being too downbeat about the situation, though, and thinks it more important that Ferrari keeps trying to get a better understanding of where it can improve the F2012.
"It is true that we keep getting information about the car, information that sometimes we should already have in our pocket, but the car seems quite complex to understand and we need to keep understanding better what is the behavior," said Alonso, who has now completed his two days of running for Ferrari at Barcelona. "I remember last year in the first tests we did a race distance on the final day and we were 1.5sec behind Red Bull in Australia. So, a race distance is always welcome, but I prefer to have a performing car and to find reliability, than to have a strong car that is slow."
When asked if he felt there was potential in the car for it to be fighting for victory in Australia, Alonso said: "We [will] see. I think it is too early to say. Definitely our targets are very ambitious. It is normal for Ferrari; you always try to win straight away the first race of the championship if you want to be a contender, so that was the target over the winter.
"At the moment, we don't know exactly where we are. I think maybe we are not the fastest but definitely we are not the slowest, so we need to wait and see, especially in the final test. With hotter temperatures in Australia, etc., we will see how the cars work and in Q3 there is the time to see where you are in Melbourne.
"Red Bull seems competitive. That is not a surprise, as they have continuity in the last two or three years with that car, so it is difficult to get it wrong completely. They will be always there, so McLaren and Ferrari need to invent something and be a bit more creative to beat Red Bull, and that is what both teams did. McLaren and Ferrari, they chose different solutions, different philosophies maybe and maybe more complex, but the result we will see in Melbourne and more importantly in November."
Alonso also played down track-side observations that the new Ferrari did not appear as well balanced in the Barcelona turns as other cars, although admitted it was lacking in the way it exited from corners.
"From the driver point of view, it always feels loose the car, you always want more and more grip. I don't know [about] the others, but when you drive the car you think the others are having the same problem. If you say the others don't have the same problems then that will be a problem, but it is difficult in a test to understand what the others are doing and watching the others it is always difficult.
"Sometimes we put a very old set of tires on and do constant speeds, and in the corners you are extremely slow. At the same time, another car is running with new tires and a short run of fuel and they fly in the corners. So from the outside it is difficult to see. But it is one area we need to improve: [the] exit of corners is one area where we are struggling, yes."