Fernando Alonso has urged his Ferrari team to not lose the belief that it can still deliver strong results this year, despite expectations of a difficult start to the campaign.
Ferrari is bracing itself for a tough time at this weekend's Australian Grand Prix, with technical director Pat Fry warning at the final test that he did not expect the team to be able to fight for a podium finish. But despite the low expectations and a difficult winter testing program, Alonso has faith that Ferrari can recover.
"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," Alonso said. "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."
Alonso says that his confidence that Ferrari can sort itself out is based on the fact that it knows exactly where its car is under-performing.
"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 tires, is a bit harder to drive," he said.
"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."