Fernando Alonso has admitted that he expects to struggle at this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix, with the current Ferrari's failings moist likely to be magnified by the Sakhir circuit.
After the surprise high of winning in Malaysia, it was back down to earth for the Spaniard in China as traffic and a lack of outright pace meant that he finished ninth, exactly the same as he had started, despite Michael Schumacher dropping out of the race ahead of him. Alonso did manage to finish ahead of Kamui Kobayashi, who had started fourth, but, as he had predicted after qualifying, both Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean had better raceday packages and were able to vault the Ferrari from eleventh and tenth respectively.
Despite his travails, the double world champion appeared able to battle with the cars around him, often going two- and three-wide at various points on the Shanghai International Circuit, but falling prey to the marbles on a couple of occasions.
“We knew this would be a difficult race and that's how it turned out," he admitted, "We were always in traffic, without an opportunity to exploit the car's potential, and, when you are behind other cars, the tyres get worn much more easily. Choosing to do three stops clearly meant we would be forced to do some overtaking but, with the top speed we had, it turned out to be almost impossible on the main straight, so I had to invent some overtaking moves at other points on the track, where I could make better use of the car."
Three races into the 2012 season, Alonso finds himself third in the drivers' standings, eight points off the leader, having at least scored in every round. However, with the dry heat of Bahrain next up, and no time for Ferrari to turn its fortunes around before touching down in Manama, the Spaniard is not expecting much from the coming weekend.
"Obviously, [the performance from China] does not leave me very optimistic for Bahrain, on a track where traction and speed are vital," he noted, "[These are] exactly the areas where we are weakest so, once again, next week will be mainly a case of damage limitation.
"I don't want to think of the [championship] classification because the priority is to improve the performance of the F2012. This does not mean, however, that I have lost hope - quite the contrary. Last year, we believed all the way to Spa and there's no reason not to at the moment, when we are third in the classification, just eight points off the leader. Sure, we definitely need to make a good step forward to make the car quicker and, in Spain, we will have major updates, but so will the others, so it's not that I'm expecting a miracle of going one second quicker than the others.”