While Fernando Alonso
emerged victorious in China earlier this month, overall the start of the 2013 F1 world championship has been a frustratingly patchy affair for Ferrari, which based its strong run last season on its consistency and reliability.
Instead, Alonso has already retired from one race - the second of the season in Malaysia after colliding with the rear of Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull
- and then suffered a technical issue in Bahrain that left his DRS system out of action for the entire race.
That was the first problem of its kind on Ferrari's drag reduction system in the three years during which it has been used in F1. That issue has now been resolved (see separate story
) and team test driver Marc Gene
insists that there's no high anxiety at the team's headquarters in Italy as the F1 roadshow heads back to Europe.
"Despite what happened the other day, the atmosphere at Maranello is calm," insisted the 39-year-old from Spain, who competed for two seasons with Minardi in 1999-2000 before becoming a test driver, first for Williams
and then later with Ferrari.
"I think this year we will fight until the end for both championships," Gene told the EFE news agency, adding that he thought 2013 would prove to be an exceptionally tough and close-fought season that would go right down to the wire.
"The nice thing about this season is that there are many teams fighting for the top positions," said Gene. "Red Bull is the benchmark, and Lotus is the other team that is very strong, but we also do not forget about Mercedes."
Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko stirred the pot earlier this week by claiming that the reigning champions feared Lotus more than they did Ferrari
this season, but Gene brushed aside such comments.
"I think this is just psychological warfare," he insisted, adding that Red Bull
certainly "should be scared of Ferrari" if they had any sense.
As for the DRS failure experienced by Alonso in Bahrain, Gene added his own confident assertion that it wasn't about to become a chronic issue for his compatriot.
"It was an unusual problem that has never happened before and won't happen again," he said.
As well as serving as Ferrari's test driver, Gene is also a regular at Le Mans where he already has one win (in 2009) and another runners-up place under his belt from his time with Peugeot in the iconic summer endurance race.
Gene will compete again this year, having moved to the Audi line-up and joined in 2013 by Oliver Jarvis and Lucas di Grassi.