Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa achieved a one-two finish in the F1 2010 curtain-raiser, despite their Ferrari F10 not being the fastest machine in the field. Don't bet against a not altogether dissimilar scenario unfolding twelve months on...
The general paddock perception is that, once again, the Scuderia
has done a pretty damn fine job in the conception of its new baby. The F150° Italia has comfortably completed the most laps of any car during pre-season testing at Valencia, Jerez and Barcelona, and with points from the opening few 'flyaway' races arguably the easiest to attain but the costliest to squander, you would have to say Ferrari is sitting fairly pretty heading Down Under for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne next weekend.
There is a quiet confidence at Maranello, and whilst pace-wise, the F150° Italia does not appear to be quite a match for Red Bull Racing's new RB7, it could well make up for that through greater durability. Double F1 World Champion Alonso is fired-up in the extreme to add a third drivers' crown to his impressive career CV, and the manner in which the Spaniard has galvanised the team around him strongly suggests that he and Ferrari will be a force to be reckoned with indeed over the coming months.
Any pretence that Massa will be given a fair crack of the whip to take on his team-mate on equal terms, however – even if the Brazilian gets close enough to Alonso to challenge, which in all likelihood he probably won't – is just that, pretence. This is to all intents and purposes a one-driver team with one goal, and the Brazilian is merely an accessory to that, a dutiful bit-part player.
As to whether Alonso will succeed in his ambition really depends upon Red Bull's early reliability, for Sebastian Vettel is every bit as happily ensconced and with his feet under the table at Milton Keynes as Fernando is at Ferrari. Should he fall just short for a second consecutive campaign, though, there will be tears before bedtime at Interlagos...
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