F1: Alonso gives thumbs up to Ferrari F138

Spaniard optimistic Italian team can fight for title

F1: Alonso gives thumbs up to Ferrari F138

Rome, February 20 - Ferrari's Fernando Alonso has given a provisional thumbs up to the Italian team's new race car after his first taste of the F138. Ferrari's campaign to win the Formula One title both last year and the year before was hampered by slow starts to the season caused by their car not being up to the pace. Spaniard Alonso squeezed every possible ounce of speed out of last year's car, the F2012, but ultimately he was thwarted by the limitations of his machinery and finished the championship three points behind Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel. Ferrari's Brazilian driver Felipe Massa, however, said after F1's first set of pre-season tests that the F138 is a world away from its predecessor. Alonso agrees, although he stressed that there is undoubtedly still a lot of work to do before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in March. "I feel reasonably pleased with this first day and I can say I share Felipe's opinion that the car is on another planet compared to the one we began with on the first day of testing last year," said Alonso, who won the 2005 and 2006 world titles with Renault. "That was a good start - not like last year when we drove for the first time and were a little bit surprised on the bad side. "In the next couple of days a lot of work is waiting for us with the tyres, the aerodynamics, with some new components, and of course we have to focus on doing a lot of mileage. "The only quantum of optimism that I have for 2013 is that I fought for the championship last year with a car that was two seconds off the pace in winter. "We overcame our bad start of 2012, so there is no reason for us not to fight for the championship again this year if we only improve the car a bit". Alonso's first day of testing in Barcelona on Tuesday was almost entirely dedicated to collecting data for the development of the car and improving the team's understanding of the new Pirelli tyres. Nevertheless, the 31-year-old still managed to notch the third-best time. He registered the fourth-best time in Wednesday's morning session, which Ferrari devoted to the car's set-up. "I am sure that we will be strong in Australia," added Alonso, who joined Ferrari in 2010. "We need to improve from where we were last year because obviously it was not enough - we finished second and we want to finish first. "So our immediate goal to improve in the first half of the year shouldn't be that difficult. We are relatively confident".

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