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Pre-Bahrain analysis - Alonso downplays Ferrari's Sakhir chances 19 Apr 2013

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix Preparations, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Thursday, 18 April 2013 Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138 crosses the line.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 14 April 2013 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138 crashes out of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 24 March 2013 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix Preparations, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Thursday, 18 April 2013 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Caterham F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix Preparations, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Thursday, 18 April 2013

Despite a resounding victory in the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai last week, Fernando Alonso said on Thursday that he is not going into this weekend’s race in Bahrain in the belief that Ferrari have the best car.

The win put him firmly back in the points battle after his retirement on the second lap in Malaysia, and demonstrated that the F138 was extremely competitive - much more so than last year’s F2012 at the same point of the season, as he led Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen home by 10.1s. He now lies only nine points adrift of series leader for Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel. Alonso still believes, however, that Red Bull remain the yardstick.

"I don't think we are the benchmark,” he said. “We still do not have the advantage or the car that people try to see now after one victory. In Australia we were clearly not the quickest, in Malaysia we were struggling a little bit, especially in qualifying where we were not so good, and in the race there Felipe (Massa) was fifth, so it is not that Vettel was dominant in the race.

"Then in China, Red Bull chose a strange strategy on Saturday when Vettel qualified on the harder tyre and thus started ninth. That compromised his race a little bit. I think we need to keep improving and we need to be a little bit faster. There are some new pieces coming for this race, we have some new components coming for Barcelona and Monaco, so I hope over the next month or month and a half we can be at the level of the other cars."

Yet again, as he did last year, Alonso stressed the need for consistency and to avoid the sort of things that happened to him in Malaysia, where he ran into the back of Vettel at the start, then had his front wing collapse when Ferrari took the decision to leave him out on track despite the damage as he was due to pit for slick tyres within a few laps. The same sort of philosophy worked perfectly for Lotus last weekend, where Raikkonen finished second after a collision with Sergio Perez’s McLaren damaged his E21’s nose.

“It could have gone either way,” Alonso acknowledged. “But more than anything we know that we need to be consistent, not only in winning races but in the fight for having podium finishes. And not having Sebastian on the podium is good news at this moment, of course, because he is leading the championship."

Meanwhile, Paul di Resta said that there had been ‘amicable’ talks between him and Force India team mate Adrian Sutil after their first-lap clash in China.

“Of course there were discussions, there were opinions, but I believe it’s sorted,” explained Di Resta. “To take the positives from it, we obviously scored good points in China. Malaysia was a big miss for us. We went into that race with the unknown about whether we had fixed the pit-stop issue and the wheelnuts that we had? I believe that was probably the strongest Grand Prix until now in terms of the performance, so I think that’s why we’re fairly optimistic, hopefully that we can do something this weekend, back in the heat.

“Our car seems to work very well with that and I think as a baseline goes, the consistency I think is the key to how we develop the car, and how we’re going to progress this year. Certainly going away with points this weekend is the target, but essentially, I think we need to get ourselves a bit more up the grid in qualifying, because that gives you the track position and that’s what hampered our race at the last Grand Prix.”

As Heikki Kovalainen returns to Formula One action this morning, sharing a standard Caterham CT-03 alongside Charles Pic who will drive a partially updated version in FP1, rival Marussia will give test driver Rodolfo Gonzalez his first run in their MR-02. The Venezuelan will thus join fellow countryman Pastor Maldonado in the line-up for the session.

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