After narrowly missing out on a third career crown at the highest level in an agonising F1 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale just under three weeks ago, Fernando Alonso has vowed to be much better-prepared to do battle for glory right from the outset in 2011 in a Ferrari team that he describes as 'even more determined' than before.
Having joined the Prancing Horse from Renault this time last year, the Spaniard's unfamiliarity with his new surroundings meant that he arrived at the Bahrain curtain-raiser arguably not quite as settled as were rivals such as Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber at Red Bull Racing, or former foe Lewis Hamilton at McLaren-Mercedes.
Victory at Sakhir got the marriage off to the perfect start, but the honeymoon faded over the remainder of the opening half of the season, and it was not until Hockenheim in late July – and the controversial team orders-engineered triumph – that Alonso truly got his title bid back on-track.
From thereon in, the 29-year-old was nigh-on flawless, with an outstanding run of four successes from the final nine grands prix and three further podium finishes – but a poor strategic call in Abu Dhabi, allied to Fernando's inability to find a way past feisty young Renault rookie Vitaly Petrov, allowed Vettel to sneak in under the radar and snatch the laurels away from his grasp by a mere four points.
It might have been an agonising conclusion to the campaign, but Alonso contends it will only serve to make Ferrari stronger next year – even if he acknowledges that by the same yardstick, the competition from the Maranello-based outfit's rivals will likely be fiercer than it was in 2010, too.
“I am proud of what the Scuderia
managed to achieve this season,” the 26-time grand prix-winner underlined. “In a year when we did not have the best car, we managed to get to the last race still in with a great chance of winning the title after staging a really strong recovery.
“The comeback we mounted from the midpoint of the season onwards, [and] the way in which we all pulled together – more united than ever – is much more important. There were races where we lost points, just as there were some where the others lost more, otherwise they would have won much earlier.
“So much has been said about Abu Dhabi, but it's easy to talk with hindsight. In a race like that last one, anything could happen, as this is a sport, not pure maths. I think that at Red Bull they would have made other choices after Korea, for example. The team was very disappointed with the missed opportunity, but Ferrari's great strength is that it does not sink into depression because of one mistake; on the contrary, it reacts to be even more determined the following year.
“Personally, I really want to start again. I expect that four teams – us, Mercedes, McLaren and Red Bull – will be in the fight for the top [in 2011]. My first year at Ferrari was very nice and brought much satisfaction. If you think that at the beginning, I didn't even know the names of all the mechanics, then the start of next season should definitely be more straightforward. We are proud of what we have done and, at the same time, aware we have to improve.”