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Early form critical to Ferrari's '11 hopes

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Abu Dhabi testingFerrari president Luca di Montezemolo and team boss Stefano Domenicali say it is critical that the Italian squad starts 2011 as a pacesetter, and avoids the kind of early-season slump that hampered its title bid this year.

Although Ferrari took a one-two with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in this year's season-opener in Bahrain, the next few months proved frustrating for the team, which did not win again until Hockenheim in late July. Alonso then had a much stronger second half to the season and led the standings heading into the Abu Dhabi season finale, only to lose the title to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel.

Di Montezemolo believes the ground lost between Bahrain and Germany this season proved critical for Ferrari - and has urged his team not to let itself start the year on the back foot again.

"We are well aware of what we must now do in preparation for next year," said di Montezemolo during Ferrari's annual Christmas event.

"Immediately, from the very first race, we have to have a car capable of winning. These are critical weeks, in which so much is in the balance and so it needs determination, creativity, a desire to innovate, for everyone to improve in their own jobs so that they set their own personal pole positions.

"Also, we must maintain our sense of being a group with that will to react that has always characterised us, which could be seen in the eyes, swollen with tears, of so many people in the Abu Dhabi garage after the race. We managed to get out of difficult moments by always sticking together."

Domenicali added: "Next season will be very long and we cannot allow ourselves not to make the most of our potential at every race. In 2010, especially in the early stages, we missed opportunities to pick up valuable points and we paid heavily for that at the final reckoning."

Ferrari recently ruled out making impromptu changes to its management and engineering structure in response to this year's championship defeat, but Domenicali reiterated that some changes to the organisation were on the cards.

"We will make adjustments, but they will only be revealed at the right moment," he said. "From a technical point of view, we must try not to repeat the mistakes which occasionally led us to take a step backwards rather than forwards. In order to succeed, we are working with alacrity and without let up."

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