The ill-handling appearance of the F2012 caused some shock if not downright panic amongst the loyal Tifosi in Melbourne, and Ferrari weren't going out of their way to offer any false optimism heading into practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit.

"I would say that, at first glance, the situation is not that different to last week," conceded Ferrari technical director Pat Fry. "Nor could it be any other way, given that the cars are more or less identical to the way they were in Melbourne."

Fry explained that the team wasn't thinking of raw speed at this point of the weekend, and that it was focused instead on comparing aerodynamic configurations, evaluating the two Pirelli tyre compounds and working towards a good race set-up.

"We did not see any particular balance problems and the pace over a long run does not seem that bad," insisted Fry. "Fernando in particular seems to be a bit more comfortable with the car, while we still have work to do to put Felipe in the best conditions possible."

Massa himself admitted that his crew had ended up going in the wrong direction in the afternoon's programme of work.

"We [Fernando and I] went in completely different directions which in my case did not work, but at least it allowed me to understand a few important things about the handling of the car," he explained. "Now my engineers and I know what is the right direction to go in, which makes me feel more optimistic for qualifying compared to how I felt about it last week in Melbourne.

"The important thing is to understand what did not work in Melbourne and I think we have everything in hand to do that," he continued. "Clearly, at the moment, our car is not yet competitive at the highest level."

Alonso did manage to pop his car into the top six in the afternoon timesheets, after a day that he described as "a bit like putting together a puzzle" trying to optimise the different aerodynamic configurations. He said that for his Ferrari at least, tyre degradation on long runs was not proving to be a particular issue for them.

"We had no major problems and so we were able to complete the entire programme," said Fry, sounding more upbeat about the steps forward they had taken. "We did not see any particular balance problems and the pace over a long run does not seem that bad."

As for expectations in tomorrow's qualifying session, Fry is quite clear that they have to avoid any repeat of the team's disastrous showing in Australia.

"The aim for tomorrow is to get both cars into Q3," he said. "We are aware that, with our current potential, it will not be easy, but we will give it our all."