Early F1 2010 World Championship leader Fernando Alonso has urged Ferrari to 'stay with our feet on the ground, keep calm and stay concentrated' heading into this weekend's Australian Grand Prix – and above all, the Spaniard stresses, the Scuderia
must 'take nothing for granted'.
In his quest for a third drivers' title, the Oviedo native made the perfect start with victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix curtain-raiser at Sakhir earlier this month, leading home team-mate Felipe Massa in an all-scarlet one-two. The common school of thought heading Down Under is that Ferrari and the 'ridiculously fast' Red Bull Racing [see separate story – click here
] are still in front, with McLaren-Mercedes slightly in arrears and Mercedes Grand Prix further behind again – but despite bringing along 'a few minor updates' itself for Albert Park, Alonso is adamant that it would be a fatal flaw to underestimate any of the Prancing Horse's three major rivals.
“The one-two win in Sakhir gave us confidence and was a great result for the hard work during the winter on the track and at the factory,” the 28-year-old told the official Ferrari website, “but we can't take anything for granted. We have to stay with our feet on the ground, keeping calm and staying concentrated.
“In Melbourne we're starting from square one. Nothing has changed for me. There are four teams and eight drivers who can fight for victory, and we have to give it our all to stay ahead of everybody else.”
'With the top end of the field so closely-matched, one or two tenths of a second per lap can have a significant impact on the finishing order on Sunday afternoons,' added a general statement from the team. 'Relief was probably the strongest feeling among the team on the flight home from Bahrain, because although the car and drivers seemed competitive in winter testing, there are no guarantees that testing form will carry through to the racing.
'All-the-same, the final result was not as straightforward as it seemed on paper and, in performance terms, the Red Bull might have had the edge, while it is clear that McLaren and Mercedes are close to the top.'
One factor that is palpably of vital importance in 2010 – given the general lack of overtaking possibilities and ban on refuelling – is qualifying, and Alonso acknowledged that a good grid position in Australia will likely be pivotal to his chances of making it two-from-two.
“I like the Albert Park track,” enthused the 22-time grand prix-winner, who triumphed in Melbourne in 2006 and has only once failed to make the points there to-date, on his F1 debut with Minardi back in 2001. “It's quite a technical circuit with some pretty interesting corners.
“Overtaking has never been easy, and what is even more important now – like on all city circuits – is the result in qualifying. We also have to see how the tyres behave with different fuel loads and temperatures, which will be different from the ones we had during testing and in Bahrain.”