Despite its apparent struggle to be competitive at the start of the 2012 F1 season, the on-track performances of Fernando Alonso and behind the scenes efforts of the technical team have left Ferrari in a position where it believes it can win the world championship.

Alonso's performances, notably winning against the odds in Malaysia and taking back-to-back podiums in Spain and Monaco, saw him head to Canada in sole control of the standings and, although a single-stop tyre strategy saw him slip to fifth on the road and second in the points after Montreal, the fact that the F2012 could run at the front on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was used as evidence of the Scuderia's hike in performance by chief designer Nikolas Tombazis.

"It's all down to a huge amount of work, from a large number of people, with particular emphasis on aerodynamics, design and production," he confirmed on the team's official website, "It's been intense over the past few months resulting in a big improvement in car performance. We have worked with determination to deal with all the negative points we picked up right from the first test in the winter.

"Rightly or wrongly, there is an expectation that, as Ferrari, we must be winning every race and always be competitive. At the start of the season, we were in an uncompetitive situation, which was a big shock for me personally and for my colleagues. It has been a hard few months, but we put our heads down and tackled the problem calmly and I think the last few races have been a morale boost for all of us - it has made us believe we can get the job done."

Despite the gains, however, Tombazis acknowledges that Ferrari - and its fanatical fans - will not be satisfied until the drivers and constructors' trophies are safely installed at Maranello, and promised that the developments would keep on coming until that goal has been achieved.

"At the moment, we are reasonably satisfied with the point we are at now, given where we started from, however, we cannot be totally happy, as we are not in a position to dominate races, or indeed to win all of them, which is always one's objective," he admitted, "We have very strong competitors who are also continuing to develop their cars and we feel this technology race will continue to the end of the season.

"Our work is continuing at the same intensity and our plan is to introduce developments at every race, starting with Valencia. This weekend, we will be experimenting with the front wing and the floor, while having further evolutions of the exhausts. We already have other updates in the pipeline for subsequent races and I believe this will continue right through to the very last race."

With Felipe Massa's new-found ability to challenge for points also included amongst the indicators of improved overall performance, Ferrari's behind-the-scenes work is clearly paying dividends, even if some of the ideas aren't always new.

"The exhaust layout in Montreal was a cousin of the one we tested in Jerez at the launch," Tombazis revealed, "The former one was more complicated and created various problems for us, which meant it did not contribute much in terms of lap time or making the driver feel it was a benefit. We therefore abandoned it, while addressing other weaknesses on the car, until we reached the first major change, which came in time for the Spanish Grand Prix.

"That had a different, central exhaust configuration, at a point when we had effectively reviewed the entire car, from its front wing, the diffuser, the rear wing and turning vanes and brake ducts, producing what was in aero terms effectively a new car. However, we kept working on the exhausts to develop a more robust and simple system, [although] it still related to the original."

This weekend's European Grand Prix takes F1 to a third successive street circuit, albeit one that falls somewhere between Monaco and Montreal in terms of technical requirements. Not as fast as the latter, but less sinuous than the Principality, Valencia does not put as much of a premium on outright speed, but Ferrari is keen to address that element before the schedule reaches the likes of Silverstone and Monza.

"Top speed in F1 is now more complicated than in the past, because of the DRS system, as it has changed the optimum level of drag for a car for any given circuit" Tombazis explained, "Therefore, it's not just a case of producing a wing that generates a bit less downforce and drag to deliver higher speeds. We have had to work on the DRS itself and the drag generated by the rest of the car body. We have made improvements in this area, but not yet quite enough to close the gap completely to the best in the field in this area."

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