Fernando Alonso says "it's going to be very tough" for him to win this year's title
Spaniard gives "super-realistic" assessment after breakthrough podium
By Mike Wise. Last Updated: 21/04/14 4:36pm
Just four races into the F1 season, Fernando Alonso has accepted that he and Ferrari are going to find it "very tough" to be title contenders.
The Spaniard was as upbeat as he could be after claiming the Scuderia's first podium finish of the season in Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix. But with this season's title battle starting to take shape, he conceded that Ferrari will have their work cut out if they're to match the performance of their main rivals.
Mercedes, of course, currently hold a big advantage, with Lewis Hamilton winning his third straight race in Shanghai to close to within four points of team-mate Nico Rosberg at the top of the Drivers' Championship.
Meanwhile, Alonso was followed home by Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel, whose RB10 car might have struggled in pre-season testing and currently lacks power but arguably has the best aerodynamic package of all.
"At the moment, it seems very far away because [Mercedes] have a big advantage and we need to work really hard if we want to have that possibility," Alonso said. "There is nothing really special we can do, just don't give up; we're in the fourth race in the championship, there's still a long way go but being super-realistic, knowing that the gap is very, very big it's going to be very tough."
Ferrari's F14 T appeared better suited to the Shanghai International Circuit than was the case in Bahrain two weeks earlier, when Alonso and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen struggled to finish in the points.
The Finn was also found wanting in the Far East, however, with Alonso quick to point out that his third place had as much to do with his own skill and desire than upgrades Ferrari had introduced.
"We brought new parts that feel a little more competitive - the car feels a little bit faster - we also tested in Bahrain, they felt OK and we confirmed that here," the 32-year-old said.
"On the other hand, I personally have had an extremely good weekend, probably at the level of 2012 in terms of driving and feeling comfortable with the car," added Alonso, who came within four points of taking the title from Vettel that year, despite having a clearly inferior car.
Next up is Alonso's home race, the Spanish GP, which he won for a second time 12 months ago. But with any gains Ferrari might make unlikely to help them challenge Mercedes anytime soon, he admitted that they "cannot promise anything for Barcelona".
Alonso added: "We will give 100 per cent again and we will fight - but in terms of result we need to remain very calm and see how development is these three weeks if we can bring some extra new parts".