Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali remains optimistic that his team can mount a late surge in the 2012 Formula 1 title race even if it endures a tough start.
The Italian squad's technical chief Pat Fry predicted at the end of winter testing that podiums could be out of reach following a difficult build-up. Domenicali acknowleged that Ferrari might get off to a low-key start, but argued that this did not mean the whole year would be a write-off.
Asked if Ferrari was "scared" of how it might fare in Australia, Domenicali said: "No, because in the end we got the performance. Ours was just an operation of transparency by saying we weren't happy with the level of performance."
Ferrari has said that a change of exhaust layout midway through testing was the main cause of its tough winter. Domenicali said a new version of the F2012's original exhaust would not be ready until the May test at Mugello.
"The process is long because we need to modify the bodywork," he said. "Our technicians need to understand how to intervene with the CFD, then analyze temperatures, prepare the parts and test them. We'll be able to do that only at Mugello testing in May."
Domenicali also believes it will take time to see where Ferrari really stands.
"Look, I'm not happy with the car because we haven't reached the goal we had set, not because we are slower than the others," he said. "In order to understand where we are we'll in fact need to wait for at least the first four grands prix."
Asked if he felt his job was in jeopardy if Ferrari struggled, Domenicali replied: "My role is different from that of a coach. I don't design the car, but I always feel called into question."