Despite the Scuderia's troubled start to the 2012 F1 campaign, Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali believes that it is now on track to keep Fernando Alonso in the thick of the championship fight to the finale in Brazil.
The Spaniard did his bit to keep Ferrari in a position of strength even as it attempted to right the F2012's deficiencies, winning in tricky conditions in Malaysia and racking up points finishes everywhere else, including podiums in Spain and Monaco. With the team now happier that its car is a genuine contender, Alonso ran at the front throughout the recent Canadian Grand Prix, only to miss out on another top three finish when a bold one-stop tyre strategy proved his undoing in the closing stages.
Although finishing fifth behind Lewis Hamilton saw Alonso surrender his championship lead to the Briton, such is the unpredictable - and close-fought - nature of the 2012 season that Domenicali sees no reason not to include his star turn among a short-list of title contenders.
"I think, at the end of the day, looking at the championship, it's going to be a fight between Sebastian [Vettel], Lewis and Fernando," the Italian told ESPN
after the Montreal race, "Maybe, because everyone is thinking one thing before the race and another later, after Valencia it will be different, but honestly I think the championship could evolve into a fight between the first three drivers."
The top three in the championship, after seven of 20 rounds, are split by just three points, with Hamilton holding a two-point advantage over his former team-mate, with Vettel a further point adrift. With Jenson Button, Mark Webber, Pastor Maldonado and Nico Rosberg all also having won races this year, and the revised scoring structure offering 25 points for a win, there is still scope for a number of other drivers to stamp their championship credentials, with Button currently eighth overall, 43 points adrift, after a string of poor results.
Despite admitting his disappointment at seeing Alonso surrender the points lead he took to Montreal, Domenicali insisted that the 'most important thing is that the championship is completely open'.
"Hamilton is leading, but Alonso is second by two points and there are many races to go," he pointed out, "The only thing is to keep pushing and put the performance on the car - up to the moment that we are qualifying on pole position, we cannot be happy.
"The first objective is not to fight for pole position as we did here, but to be able to take
a pole position after such a long time. Of course there will be another evolution - we will bring new updates for Valencia - but I'm sure the others will do the same, so it's a matter to see how the package is performing on the track that will make the difference."