Twelve months on from his arrival at Ferrari and at the Maranello launch of the Scuderia's
F150, double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso has revealed that he now feels 'far more integrated in the team' and as such will get to grips with his new car rather quicker than before – as he warned rivals that 'we are up for the challenge'.
The Spaniard came within a whisker of clinching a third career crown last season, defying the odds to successfully take the fight to Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in the faster Red Bull Racing RB6 – but a calamitous strategic error in the Abu Dhabi finale ended up costing him dear.
However, over the second half of the campaign, it was Alonso who was indubitably the man in-form, triumphing four times from the final nine races and missing the podium just twice. Confident that the new machine will suit him better than did its predecessor, the 29-year-old acknowledged the inevitable pressure that comes with competing for the most famous team in the history of the sport, but insisted his motivation and desire to succeed are sky-high.
“2010 was an incredible year for me,” he reflected. “I discovered a wonderful team, one that was really passionate for a new driver. Now I am far more integrated in the team, and that feeling has been carried out through 2010 and has contributed to the creation of the new car. I think I will find it easier to adapt to this new car and will feel more confident and comfortable with it – it will be more predictable – and I hope it will be as strong as it is beautiful.
“The new car we see here is the fruit of many months' labour by the people who work for Ferrari. I have a good impression of it. At this presentation, we have seen the potential of Ferrari – we are the only team that can do a launch like this.
“2011 will be a new challenge due to the new technical regulations which mean drivers will have to adapt to a new style, such as the re-introduction of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems). The first sensations on 1 February are less important than ever. Driving is more difficult, yes – when you take a road car or a GT maybe you enjoy yourself more. F1 is more technical, but I'm really motivated, really excited. Now we have to commit completely to what we do and we are ready – we are up for the challenge.”
Similarly fired-up is team-mate Felipe Massa, whose future at Ferrari came under the spotlight last year as the likeable Brazilian struggled to regain his erstwhile form following his life-threatening Hungaroring qualifying accident the previous summer. Following a solid start, the Paulista seemed to lose heart as Alonso increasingly stamped his authority on the team – and he will need to battle back and prove his worth in F1 2011 if he is to prolong an association with the Prancing Horse that stretches all the way back to 2003.
“I still have many years ahead of me,” Massa asserted. “I'm really motivated and excited. I've followed the development of the car up until now, and I am really eager to start the new year. There are a lot of things to learn as quickly as possible, and I really hope this new car will grow as quickly as possible. Working on a car is not a simple task, but with the strength and work of our engineers and mechanics, I think it will be easy for me to learn all the new rules and have good results this season.”
One other problem for Massa last year – that came to light in the wake of his overshooting his grid slot for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps – was the fact that due to his diminutive stature and the high nose of the F10, he was unable to properly see out of the cockpit. The 29-year-old is hopeful that will no longer be an issue in 2011.
“Definitely we have worked a lot on the driver position with such a big front nose this year,” he explained. “We've had to change it, as visibility could be a problem. We haven't driven the car yet (to check the position), but we are going in the right direction with it.”