Fernando Alonso could hardly be accused of not trying in 2011, but the lack of a potent Ferrari restricted the Spaniard to just one win and a supporting role for most of the season.

After the final round frustration of 2010, Alonso's championship ambitions evaporated a lot earlier this year, with the victory at Silverstone - when blown diffusers were subjected, briefly, to restrictive new regulations - proved to be a false dawn as Red Bull and, latterly, McLaren pulled further ahead in the pecking order, with Mark Webber's victory in the final round enough to drop Alonso out of the top three in the individual standings.

Ferrari, meanwhile, made no secret of its decision to can development of the 2011 car in favour of starting work on its successor, which will have to be built to a slightly amended rulebook which could allow it to steal a march on its rivals. Prior to appearing as one of the Magi at sponsor Santander's Christmas festivities, Alonso met with journalists from his homeland, admitting that there was already a sense of expectation within the walls at Maranello.

"This is the time when one is always optimistic, but then we must wait for the start of the season to see where we really are," he commented, "It's true that, in the past few days, there was a good feeling at Maranello and there's an air of confidence about it."

The optimism is fuelled, in part, by a change of attitude - and personnel - within the Ferrari set-up, which Alonso reckons will keep its rivals guessing when it comes to the gestation of the new Prancing Horse. However, until it proves itself on track, there will always be those prepared to keep raking over the ashes of the season.

"Last spring, we made important changes to the structure of the technical part of the team and now we have adopted a new approach, a less conservative one, in the design of the new car," he noted, "The philosophy behind the 2012 car is very different to that of 2011, especially in some key areas like suspension and aerodynamics. We know that Ferrari is burdened with the expectations of victory and, if it does not happen, in the winter the papers devote page after page to the whys and wherefores as to how things can change, while the others have to make do with the crumbs in terms of media coverage. It's one of the things that make Ferrari different to all the other teams."

With no on-track action until the start of February, there is little that Alonso can do apart from offer his opinion on what the new car needs and keep himself in shape. However, after a tough season - and with a longer one on the cards for 2012 - the double world champion is prepared to give himself a little time off to plan the downfall of Sebastian Vettel.

"Now's the time to take it easy for a few weeks," he confirmed, "Time to recharge the batteries and be one hundred per cent ready for next season, which I expect will be much more of an equal fight than the one just gone. Red Bull will still be very strong, but I think they will have less room for improvement than us, as we were so far behind this year.

"We want to reacquaint ourselves with the taste of winning that has eluded us for a while."