Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has admitted that he cannot face the prospect of another season as bad as that suffered by the Prancing Horse in 2011, but insists that he has the most complete driver in the field ready to lead the recovery.
Although the Scuderia's campaign was successful compared to some - Mercedes, for one, failed to record a single podium in 2011 - di Montezemolo pointed to its record of being in the title fight more often than not as reason to consign it to the bin marked 'failure', with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa ruled out of contention well before the Interlagos finale and the team turning its attention to its 2012 machine earlier than expected.
Having already found time to criticise Massa's input to the campaign [see story here
], di Montezemolo admitted that seeing Alonso's eight-point championship lead overturned at the last round of 2010 had sent the team into a shock that it did not emerge from until it was too late.
"I'm not happy with the past season, but we were all still under the shock of the lost 'world cup final' in Abu Dhabi 2010," he was quoted as saying by Britain's Daily Mirror
, "This year I was somehow reminded of 2009, when we won only one race. That must be different in 2012. One year I can accept defeat but, please, not a second consecutive one."
While his contempt for Massa is barely disguised, and with potential replacements for the Brazilian - thought to include currently injured Renault star Robert Kubica and Mercedes' Nico Rosberg among them - currently being lined up, di Montezemolo has no doubts about the man in the team's lead car.
"I wouldn't trade Alonso for anyone, because in a race he's the strongest driver around," he insisted, "He has had a great season, [and] I'm very pleased with how he worked with the team. Fernando is the best driver in F1, with the best speed, consistency, experience and talent. He compares to the best Schumacher."
The Italian was also happy to praise Alonso's rivals, claiming that double world champion Sebastian Vettel was 'a smart lad', admitting that Jenson Button had 'had an exceptional season' and stressing that Rosberg had 'had two good seasons despite having a car that wasn't very competitive', whilst conceding that, in Button and Lewis Hamilton, McLaren possessed the strongest driver line-up on the grid. However, he always returned to Alonso as the driver he would pick first.
"If I have to choose between drivers with equal skill, I'll always take the one with the better head," he told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport
, "However, you can have the best driver in the world but, if you don't have a competitive car, you have nothing."
Revealing that 'there are things I see to make me optimistic for 2012', di Montezemolo announced that Ferrari would take the wraps off its new car on Friday 3 February, in advance of pre-season testing but two days after rival McLaren launches its 2012 campaign.
"For us, the main goal is, again, to be competitive and I have a lot of confidence in my people and their capability to react," he noted.