Fernando Alonso has said that it won't be possible to say whether he or anyone else will be a genuine title contender until later in the season, despite winning in China on Sunday.
The Spaniard became only the second two-time winner in the ten-year history of the Shanghai race after Ferrari produced the right tyre strategy for a car that had the legs on the likes of Lotus, Mercedes and Red Bull, but Alonso insists that it is too early to determine who will be fighting it out for the 2013 world title.
“We need to wait until maybe after the summer break, or something like that, to clearly see the real contenders,” he told journalists immediately after the Chinese race, “Hopefully, we are in that group after the summer, and, hopefully, Felipe [Massa] can be in that group as well, as that will mean that the car is going well.
“I think, at the moment, Lotus, Red Bull and Mercedes are in the same position as us, let's say, [but] I don't see anyone has a clear advantage. Maybe Red Bull was very dominant in Australia in all free practices; in qualifying and the race – yes, they were suffering a little bit of degradation, but were definitely very fast. In Malaysia, they were maybe a little bit more in the groove but, here, they were similar to the others, so let's wait and see what the updates of every car brings to the pace, and we will see how luck plays.
“It happened to Nico [Rosberg] in Australia where he didn't finish with car problems, it happened to us in Malaysia. I think, especially hearing Kimi [Raikkonen]'s comments today, you never know whether the front wing will remain there and finish the race, or if the front wing will go underneath your car and you don't finish the race. And it's the same with [Mark] Webber, who had the problem with a tyre today and didn't finish. This can happen to anyone and will also dictate who the contenders will be.”
Despite his attempts to play down speculation over whether he can be in the mix for a third world crown, there was no denying that Alonso and Ferrari had been the best combination in China, with the Scuderia pit-wall even telling the Spaniard that he had no further need to press on after passing Sebastian Vettel with the German still needing to run the softer 'option' tyre.
“You always push,” Alonso smiled, “In an F1 race, it's impossible not to push, but it's true that we had some pace, maybe, in the pocket. It's not easy to know when to use it, depending on the state of the tyres, but there was a little bit more potential here, and hopefully we can show it in Bahrain in one week too.
“I expect a tough race again, as I think we will see different conditions and who knows how competitive anyone can be. But definitely, as I said before, from the races that we finished this year, the car seems to be able to be on the podium, so we hope to be on the podium again in Bahrain.”
“The team did a perfect job with the set-up of the car for qualifying and the race, we had perfect pit-stop times and execution. At the end of the race, the victory is a good reward for the team, and well deserved after the disappointment in Malaysia. The two races we've finished, one was second and victory today, so it's a positive start to this championship.
“We need to keep going like that, and maximise these types of weekends, when everything goes well. I'm sure we will struggle on some other weekends, and we need to maximise the points there. Sometimes we can win, sometimes the maximum is third or fifth, but we need to do the job.”