Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali believes the team can still take plenty of positives from 2011 despite failing to mount the Formula 1 title challenge it hoped for.
After Fernando Alonso only narrowly lost the 2010 championship to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel despite a poor first half of the season, Ferrari was expecting to be in the thick of the title battle from the outset this year, but instead has won just one race so far. Alonso looks set to end the year third in the drivers' standings.
Domenicali believes the root of Ferrari's problems this season was that it was caught out by the exhaust-blown diffuser situation and by the time it regained some ground Red Bull was so far ahead it was better to switch focus to 2012.
"It is pretty simple in my view," he said. "We were not competitive at the beginning – the gap was too big.
"We missed out from the technical point of view – the big theme of this year was the blowing exhaust diffuser. Then we caught up a little bit, we had quite a good beginning of the summer where we could have won two more races with no problems to be honest with you, and that is to do with the luck or bad luck of this year, and then we missed a big development for Belgium that made the difference in the second part of the season.
"That is why, basically, at the end of July we stopped the development of the car and so we are trying now to maximize the performance that we had."
Alonso has taken 10 podium finishes this year, and Domenicali believes there have been enough times when Ferrari has been on or very near the pace to prove that the car was not fundamentally bad.
"If you look at certain tracks where the effect of the exhaust is less, I would say you see the car is competitive – in certain conditions very competitive," he said. "So that gives me good hope and good prospects for the future because, as you know, the situation has been clear in terms of the exhaust position for next year. Everyone is trying to maximize what we understood this year to hopefully be ready for the beginning of the season next year."
Even so, he acknowledged that Ferrari was chasing a moving target in main rivals Red Bull and McLaren, so could not be confident until it saw how it compared to its peers at the start of 2012.
"I am respecting the competition as they are very strong," said Domenicali. "We need to maximize the job and we will see where we are in first practice and qualifying in Australia."