After three difficult races in Australia, Malaysia and China, Fernando Alonso arrives in Spain next week for what he reckons is the real start of the championship.
And the Spanish driver is bullish his Ferrari team will be up there fighting.
AUTOSPORT heard from Alonso during a media event for sponsor Santander.
Q. How do you judge the car so far and what is the situation with the engine problems?
Fernando Alonso: The car is fine. For one reason or another we haven't managed to score as many points as we wanted, but I think we are going to have a good car again in Barcelona. I'm not worried.
As for the engines, we have found the problems that we had. I know there have been things written about the valves and the air consumption system of the engine, which are completely untrue, as it usually happens. So we are quiet because we have found the problems and we'll try to do the rest of the season with an engine that's 100 per cent reliable.
Q. Felipe Massa told Brazilian media that he thought there could have been an accident in China. What's your point of view?
FA: I don't know what Felipe said. What's clear is that 15 days after a race you can't keep talking about such minuscule things, so I'm not going to answer because otherwise tomorrow we'll have another front page and I think that's unnecessary.
Q. Is it true that Ferrari has asked the FIA to be allowed to modify its engine?
FA: I don't know what the team has asked exactly. What I know from what I've talked about with the engineers is that they are very confident they have solved the problems. The issues we and Sauber had were different, it wasn't only one thing in particular, but I believe it's solved.
Q. You said in Australia that you were not worried about the result because the drivers ahead of you were not your main championship rivals. Now that Button has won two races, do you believe he's a real contender?
FA: I always respect all my rivals. Even so, I believe there are rivals you have to have more under control and others you can give a certain margin to. I've always said that Hamilton, Vettel or Michael, Felipe are very good drivers who can fight for the title.
Button didn't win the title by chance last year, it was because he deserved it. And now he's leading the championship on his own merit because he has done better than us, so we have to improve. All rivals are respectable, but to me there are two or three I'll keep a closer look on.
Q. After four races, what's your feeling? Relief for having rescued points in complicated races or frustration because you could have won more races?
FA: There's always frustration on Sunday afternoon when you don't achieve all the points you should have scored, but from a more general perspective, after a week home, these four races have been very positive. Being third in the championship, very few points away from the leader, I believe is a very good situation.
With the potential that we have, with the super team that I have, this is just the beginning and I have a real chance to fight for the world championship, something I couldn't even think about last year after four races.
I'm enjoying it again, and I've felt that bug from winning a race or winning the championship again, and that's the most positive thing about the start to this year. We can't forget that last year during the final part of the season Ferrari was very far from the leaders, so there were a lot of things to confirm and many wishes to grant and they have been granted.
Q. Is the real championship starting in Europe?
FA: The championship always starts in the first race, but it's true that it's just a race to confirm the good sensations you've had during testing. But it's true that in Europe it is time to show who is going to fight for the title and who isn't.
The first races can be atypical races with changing weather all the time, so now in Europe it's the moment of truth to show who is going to be in the title fight, and also for the teams to prove they can develop faster than their rivals. It's the start of a nice fight.
Q. You said the F10 was the best car you had ever driven. Do you still stand by that?
FA: Yes, I said it during the pre-season and I still believe it's the best car I've very driven. It's very good in every sense, but obviously in Formula 1 everything can be improved because engineers are inventing new parts every day. So the best car I've driven in my life is yet to come, and that will be the one I use in Barcelona, then in Monaco, then in Turkey. Every day it will be better.
Q. Will Ferrari use the F-Duct in Barcelona?
FA: We are on it. There's nothing confirmed yet. I wish there are lots of updates for Barcelona, but it's not an easy system to make work. I know the team is working hard so it's available as soon as possible.
Q. Will those improvements be enough to catch Red Bull in qualifying trim?
FA: I think so. I believe we'll catch them.
Q. Germans seem to be disappointed with Schumacher. Is there such a feeling on the grid too?
FA: No, there's no such feeling. It's not like we spend too much time thinking about what the others are doing, but we have a huge respect towards Schumacher and every driver on the grid knows it's been a bad start for him, with very few points in the first races, but I believe there's nobody ready to say the championship is over for him. We knew what he's capable of doing so we have to respect him and we know the best is yet to come from him.
Q. In the last two races there were two controversial actions from Hamilton: the weaving in Malaysia and the pitlane exit side-by-side with Vettel. He wasn't punished for those. Do you believe Hamilton has a privileged position when judged by the FIA stewards?
FA: No, I don't think so. The decisions are perhaps not very consistent, because there will be other times when the same happens and someone gets a penalty for it. So it varies a bit, but I don't think that's very important.
He got two warnings and maybe he will be penalised in the next race if he does something wrong. It's like referees in football: their intention is not bad, but sometimes they make a decision and other times a different one.