Fernando Alonso has admitted that Ferrari already need to find performance

Spaniard fifth on grid for Australian GP; Raikkonen 12th after crash

By Mike Wise in Melbourne.   Last Updated: 16/03/14 4:41am

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A new season might be underway but a familiar picture is emerging at Ferrari, with Fernando Alonso admitting after qualifying for the Australian GP that they have a clear performance deficit to pacesetters Mercedes.

The Spaniard lines up in recognisable territory for Sunday's race: fifth on the grid. Meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen's first qualifying session since his return to the Scuderia ended when the Finn spun his F14 T in wet conditions, wiping off the car's nose.

Rain descended upon Albert Park during Q2 and with Alonso sampling the car in the wet for the very first time, he admitted that he found it difficult to judge the conditions.

"The conditions were right in the middle; some people took the inters and they did well, like [Daniel] Ricciardo, and some took the inters and it was a bad decision, like Felipe [Massa]," he said.

"It doesn't make a great difference in our position. Fifth is the position we were around all of the weekend in practice in dry and wet conditions, so I'm happy."

Although Raikkonen hit the wall and both drivers' cars appeared skittish under braking, they denied that Ferrari's brake-by-wire system - used by teams this season as a result of the switch to hybrid power - was a particular concern.

"It has been working more or less okay, to me at least," Alonso said. "We're still playing around with the system a little bit, we still tune it a little bit especially with the different conditions - low grip, high grip; low fuel, high fuel.

"We need to adapt the system to those conditions and do it automatically. But I don't think that is our weakness at the moment."

Raikkonen, who has appeared to struggle more than his team-mate so far, said after his crash at the conclusion of Q2: "It's nothing to do with that. It's probably more with the tyres and the set-up. We're a bit stuck with that right now but like I said we're working on it and we know where we want to go.

The Finn, who will line up 12th, has struggled with the F14 T's torque delivery since the car's launch.

"We didn't have any more time to do an extra lap, so I would have come in anyhow," he said. "I was playing around with the switches or something and I just got a little bit of wheelspin."

Kimi Raikkonen: Qualifying crash

Alonso said Ferrari need to improve the car across the board. "We are a step behind Mercedes in terms of performance. We are not losing that time on the braking because the braking is not working," he said.

"One is that area, on the braking - to make it a little bit more consistent - especially, as I said, when we change the configuration of the car from high fuel to low fuel, or more or less grip.

"We need to improve a little bit the speed of the car in general: the traction, the top speed...we are a little bit down here compared to the others on the finish line.

"There are finally some areas where we can finally see our competitors when we're racing because in the testing you never know what the others are doing."

The Spaniard is hopeful he can get his season started with a podium finish, although with the reliability of F1's new generation of cars about to be given its sternest test yet, he said no-one can be certain of reaching the chequered flag.

"It's possible, yes, because we're starting fifth so we just need to make two positions to get that goal," Alonso added.

"You can't take finishing the race for granted, as we were probably doing in the last couple of years.

"Even the guy on pole position cannot be 100 per cent that he will finish the race, so we'll try to do everything on our side."

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Qualifying 3 Times

F1 Driver Standings Table 15
Position Driver Nationality Team Pts
1 Hamilton Mercedes 1:44.231
2 Ricciardo Red Bull 0.317
3 Rosberg Mercedes 0.364
4 Magnussen McLaren 1.514
5 Alonso Ferrari 1.588
6 Vergne Toro Rosso 1.633
7 Hulkenberg Force India 1.799
8 Kvyat Toro Rosso 3.137
9 Massa Williams 3.848
10 Bottas Williams 3.916


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