Fernando Alonso tells Sky Sports that Ferrari are "a little bit behind" frontrunners
Team won't trial Melbourne spec until Friday practice at Australia
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 02/03/13 7:40am
Fernando Alonso has admitted to Sky Sports F1 that Ferrari are "behind the top teams" and revealed that, unlike their direct competitors, they will not be trialling their package for the season-opening Australian GP this weekend at Barcelona.
Although a pecking order has been all-but impossible to determine over the last month of winter testing, Alonso's remarks represent the first definitive acknowledgement that Ferrari are not currently on a par with the leading teams - widely believed to be Red Bull and, after a positive step forward at the start of 2013, Lotus.
"I think we are a little bit behind the top teams, which is where we expected to be. In Brazil we were seven or eight tenths behind the Red Bull and McLarens and no one can recover that amount of time in a couple of months," Alonso told Sky Sports F1 on the second day of the third and final test of the winter at Barcelona. "Hopefully we will arrive a little bit closer than that in Melbourne."
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However, that ambition has been complicated by the late arrival of the updates the team plan to use for the March 17 curtain raiser at Albert Park.
"The parts for Australia are not coming to this test so we will try them out on the Friday there," revealed Fernando.
By contrast, the likes of Red Bull, McLaren and Lotus are expected to bolt on their Melbourne specifications on to their new cars on the final two days of this week's test, while it's understood that Mercedes started trialling their Australia updates on Friday.
Meanwhile, doubts are emerging about the race-readiness of McLaren's fast but inconsistent MP4-28 following the admission of Jenson Button that the team were struggling to understand their new charger - which is based on a radically-different design philosophy compared to its race-winning predecessor, the MP4-27.
During live coverage from Circuit de Catalunya, Sky Sports F1 pundit Martin Brundle reported: "There is certainly a feeling in the paddock that McLaren don't have a great car at the moment for the long runs and that they aren't up there with the Red Bull", while Sky F1 colleague Mark Hughes described the car as being "fast but plagued by understeer".
Button did, however, finish second in the timesheets on Friday after a day of apparent progress at McLaren.
"For us, it's been the best day of the testing," the 2009 World Champion told The F1 Show afterwards. "We have a bit more of an understanding of the car, although we're still not quite there in terms of pace, and the next two days need to be 100-lap days."