Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has warned the excited tifosi
that the Scuderia
still has 'lots of problems to resolve' and that 'Mercedes will be the team to beat' in F1 2010 – despite the highly encouraging and pace-setting low-fuel form demonstrated by both Felipe Massa and new recruit Fernando Alonso during the opening pre-season test at Valencia last week.
After Massa had led the way on the first two days – definitively banishing any fears that he might have lost some of his edge as a result of his life-threatening Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying accident last summer – Alonso took over for the third and final day around the Circuit Ricardo Tormo and similarly topped the timesheets, leaving the two scarlet machines sitting pretty at the head of the order at the close of proceedings, comfortably clear of rivals Sauber, McLaren-Mercedes, Renault, Mercedes Grand Prix, Scuderia Toro Rosso and Williams.
di Montezemolo, though, urged caution – and it is clear that after the disappointment of 2009, this time around the Italian is keeping his expectations firmly in-check.
“These pre-season tests are like the month of August in football,” the 62-year-old told respected sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport
. “The only positive thing so far is that the car seems to have been born well. We still have lots of problems to resolve, and we must keep our feet on the ground.
“We don't know how fast the others are yet, and how much fuel they have had on-board. The lap times of Alonso and Massa mark an encouraging first sign, but it's still too early to give any kind of proper judgement. I think Mercedes will be the team to beat; then there is Red Bull, who I am sure will be very competitive, given the advantage with which they ended last year – and McLaren will be up there too.
The Maranello-based outfit's technical director Aldo Costa, by contrast, was rather more upbeat about Ferrari's prospects over the course of the forthcoming campaign, as some members of the opposition begin to fear that the Prancing Horse has already stolen an early march on them and is preparing itself to gallop as they are still only just easing their way out of the starting blocks.
“It was a very positive test,” he affirmed. “We covered 1,400kms across all fuel levels and had good reliability and good performance to start with. We also tried the new tyres and started doing some set-up and development work. All the numbers we had got from the simulations and the wind tunnel matched up pretty well [on-track], so we are reasonably happy – and the feedback from the drivers was positive, and gave us a good baseline to start developing the car for the next test and the first few races.
“To be honest, we see that we are fast, but we don't know precisely how fast we are compared to the others. The good thing, as I said, is that all the calculations and all the evaluations that we did with the design of the car have given good results on the track.”
Ferrari is due to try out some new components and aerodynamic and mechanical updates at the next test at Jerez in southern Spain later this week, whilst fuel-corrected lap times show that Alonso was marginally the quicker of the two drivers on his debut for the team on home turf last week, as the Spaniard ran predominantly 2009 levels of fuel and Massa heavier 2010 levels. Both drivers professed themselves pleased with the F10's tyre-management and responsive nature.