Alonso not ignoring Ferrari

Renault ace Fernando Alonso is refusing to write off Ferrari's chances of carrying on as the dominant force in Formula 1, despite the fact the Italian team appears to be on the backfoot after a far from impressive testing performance from its modified 2004 car

Alonso not ignoring Ferrari

The ultra-quick pace of the Renault and McLaren teams has installed the two Michelin-shod outfits as early favourites to grab victory in the season opening Australian Grand Prix, but even so Alonso knows it would be foolish to take the testing results at face value.

This time last year Ferrari was also struggling in testing pace but its final pre-season test at Imola saw a transformation in its performance - which served as an early warning about its dominant form throughout 2004.

That is why Alonso, who broke the lap record on the final day of testing at Barcelona in Spain on Friday, is remaining cautious about his team's chances for Melbourne.

"Are Ferrari worried about us?" said Alonso, talking to autosport.com. "Well, they did the same this time last year and then we went to Australia. And then they were way ahead.

"Until then they were a second behind us so we will have to see in Australia. I do not doubt that Ferrari will be favourite because they have something from Bridgestone and I am sure they have got something kept to themselves. They have got a car that can win."

Speaking about Renault's own form, Alonso said: "We would like to be strong in the first race of the season and we are positive about this car and the season. We have to sort out the reliability and we need a bit of luck as well to win the first race."

Despite Alonso's cautiousness, Renault's pace at Barcelona in Spain has proved that the R25 is a significant step forward over its predecessor - and Ferrari has been worryingly eyeing both the speed and consistency of the car over race distances.

One Bridgestone engineer told autosport.com: "On this track if we have a race tomorrow, Fisichella will win. But Melbourne is a different situation..."

Schumacher himself is keeping a brave face on current concerns about Ferrari's pace - and is hopeful that the final pre-season run out at Valencia next week will provide a much clearer indication of where the team stands with its F2004M.

"At the moment, from what we can see, Michelin is very strong," said Schumacher. "But we know Bridgestone and how good they are when it's necessary to fight back. We're coming to the closing stages of pre-season testing and we still haven't put everything together. I think the next test will show a little bit more of where we are before the first race."

When asked whether he believed team-mate Rubens Barrichello was right to claim that Renault and McLaren were currently stronger than Ferrari, Schumacher said: "Yes, because that's what we can see from the lap times they are doing."

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