Ferrari is taking nothing for granted after seeing Fernando Alonso
become the first driver to win two grands prix in 2012, with team boss Stefano Domenicali claiming that Red Bull
is now the team to beat.
Anyone watching the opening stages of Sunday's European Grand Prix in Valencia would have come to the same conclusion, as reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel
streaked away at the front of the field. While some believed the German to have been on a different tyre strategy to his rivals, and thus needing to extend a gap before making more stops, it was the rest of the field that succumbed to the need for more rubber sooner.
Indeed, it was only the appearance of the safety car on lap 28 that appeared to put a spoke in Vettel's wheel, pulling the German back to the pack and erasing a near 20-second lead. Worse was to follow, for just two laps into the restarted race, the #1 Red Bull
machine ground to a halt with alternator failure, denying Vettel an almost certain 25 points that could have taken him back to the head of the championship table.
Ferrari, meanwhile, was having to fight its way through the pack, as neither Alonso or team-mate Felipe Massa
had made it through to the final phase of qualifying, despite having been in the hunt for pole position in Canada just two weeks earlier. Although circumstances fell its way, and Alonso was able to capitalise on the opportunities that arose, Domenicali is under no illusion that the Scuderia is now on a par with the likes of McLaren, Lotus and Mercedes - and definitely not with Red Bull.
"We saw that Red Bull
improved a lot in terms of pure performance," he was quoted by Sky Sports
, "We need to not forget that, and that has to be a target for our people at home that have worked a lot.
"We are fighting to improve the car [but] up to the moment, we cannot be happy because the qualifying means that, from a pure performance point of view, we are reaching the highest level. At the moment, we need to be fair: we are not there. So we really need to keep working with the people on the ground, knowing the fact that, for sure, this is a totally different car to where we were at the beginning of the season. But it's not enough, we need to keep pushing. We will never be happy up to the moment we go back to pole position because this is a very important element of the race."
fans will point to the much-reduced gap in performance between the driver in the top half of the field as a reason why neither scarlet machine made it into Q3 on Saturday, Domenicali is more concerned that one team may be about to pull away at the front.
"I think for sure this is another level from what we saw at the beginning of the season," he noted, "In my view, Red Bull
is the quickest in terms of pure performance.
"Of course, in the race, if you are leading you can dictate the pace, but it was very strong [in Valencia] so that is something that we need to keep in mind. We know that our target is at the end of November [but], in my view, they did something very good this weekend. They've improved the car, [and] we are not really at the level we should be in terms of the performance."