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Pre-Spain analysis - Ferrari play it cool in Catalunya 10 May 2013

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus F1 and Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari celebrate on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 14 April 2013 Ferrari garage,
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Preparations, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 9 May 2013 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari in the press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Preparations, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 9 May 2013 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari signs autographs for the fans.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Preparations, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 9 May 2013 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Preparations, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 9 May 2013 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, 19 April 2013 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 23 March 2013 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 23 March 2013

Despite Fernando Alonso’s victory in China, and the fact that the Scuderia have scored a lot more points after the first four races than they had this time last year, Ferrari chief designer Nikolas Tombazis says that he would only score their start to the season at 60 percent.

"I think in general, the first results mean we can be reasonably optimistic about the rest of the season, with a sense that we can fight for wins and the championship," said Tombazis. "However, if I was to score our overall performance, I would only give it a six out of 10 and that's for two main reasons.

"One is that we are not yet quite where we want to be. In the first four Grands Prix, we were not really able to fight for pole position and that is one of our main objectives at the moment. Secondly, if you look at the actual results, even if it's true we've had a win, which naturally we can be very pleased about, we have also had two very bad results where we scored very few points. However, we can be optimistic for the future."

The team have brought a host of updates to the F138 for Alonso’s home race, intent on going one place better than he managed last year when he could not overcome Williams’ Pastor Maldonado, and the primary objective is to improve qualifying performance.

Although Red Bull’s Mark Webber recently suggested that qualifying is much less important than in the past, Ferrari’s deputy chief designer Simone Resta suggests otherwise, as getting stuck in dirty air can have a deleterious effect on tyre wear, which is already one of the most crucial factors in a race.

"This year I think we have shown a reasonable race pace, and we closed the gap in qualifying,” he said, “but we still need to work on that - and it is a priority for us. I think learning the tyres and also how to treat them is an important factor in that - and concentrating your set-up more to qualifying or more to the race is another factor.”

Alonso himself stressed the importance of race pace on Thursday, however.

“This year we see how important the races are, the race pace,” the Spaniard said. “The tyres are a key factor, more than previously. Obviously it’s good to start at the front and if you start on the first row you know that your chances are high and the podium, you can really touch with your hands if you start on the first row.

“But I think we need to have a very, very normal weekend like we did in the first four races and try to find the right balance between qualifying and the race. Maybe the first really important qualifying will arrive in two weeks’ time in Monaco, when we know that qualifying is extremely important. I think here is still more or less a normal circuit and you need to find a compromise.”

He also stressed that despite a 30-point deficit to Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel he feels optimistic for the season, which still has 15 races left.

“Last year we were one to 1.5 seconds behind the top cars. We might have won the Malaysian race with luck last year, but this year we have finished two races without problems. We finished second in Australia and we won in China so it’s a very different feeling and a very different package that we have this year which brings us optimism and some confidence that we can have a good championship. We need to deliver, we need to do some consistent results now and gain some consistent points for the next Sundays, but we are more optimistic now that we have some points behind us.

“The championship is long and there are many, many examples, as we said many times last year - I think the most recent was Sebastian’s recovery last year. He was 43 points behind us after the summer break and was leading at Austin in Texas, so in five or six races you can recover 45-50 points if you get some consistent results. Same with us in 2006 when I was 33 points in front of Michael, which means 75 or 80 points with the current points system, and he was leading the championship in Suzuka with two races to the end. Until we are 75 or 80 points behind, we should be optimistic, until that point.

“Maybe this is the first time that we arrive with a competitive car but that doesn’t mean that you will fight for top places, even if you do everything right and if you don’t put together a good weekend. It’s also true that we need to check how the car responds with some new parts that we brought here. Same with the other teams. Our competitors make the biggest step that they do, and after that we see. As I said, in the first four races we felt competitive, we felt that we were able to fight for the top places if the race was without problems and what we will try here is to have a clean race with no problems Friday, Saturday, Sunday. And if that will be enough to put us in contention for victory it will be nice. If it’s not possible, we will try to be as high as possible, but it’s a weekend that we approach with a positive mentality and maybe not as a defensive mentality, as with my first three years with Ferrari.”

Speaking of the emotion of racing in front of his adoring fans, the Spaniard said: “I think it motivates you to race at home and you give an extra 10 per cent on what you normally do, to take care of every detail of the weekend, starting from practice, qualifying, race. You try to do everything well because you know that a nice result here, a nice podium finish or whatever, will make you happy, will make the team happy, make many people in the grandstand happy.

“So, it’s a special weekend but after all those years I think you’re okay with that extra motivation and it’s not anymore a pressure or the emotions you maybe felt in the first year, that you really worry to do well here for everybody that comes to support you. Now you’ve proved for many years that there’s not a pressure or anything that will stop you doing well.

“After doing very good results at home, now you want to keep doing it like that to really make everyone enjoy Sunday afternoon.”

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