F1: Ferrari brimming with optimism ahead of opener
Alonso confident F138 has potential to be competitive15 March, 17:05
The Italian team's campaign for the 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.
But drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa have both said that the new car, the F138, is on a different planet to its predecessor, the F2012, on the basis of its performance in pre-season tests.
That does not mean it will be the fastest on the grid in Melbourne this weekend. But the team has a stronger starting point to work from and the hope is that Alonso and Massa will be among the contenders for podium places. "It's not difficult to start better than 2012, but it would be difficult to start worse," quipped Spain's two-time world champion Alonso, who finished a close second to Red Bull's German driver Sebastian Vettel in the drivers' championship last year despite having a car that was slower by a long shot.
"We have a better understanding of this car and in testing it produced the results we were expecting. "That gives us confidence and optimism at the start of the season.
"We need to start on the right foot and hopefully score some good points for the championship.
"It is dangerous to make any conclusions based on sector times in testing. "However, we can say we are happy with what we achieved during the winter and got through the programme we had planned.
"So we have 100% of the potential within the car and hopefully that will be enough to be competitive". Alonso and Massa notched the sixth and eighth-fastest times respectively in Friday's practice sessions ahead of the season-opener.
Vettel, who is bidding for his fourth consecutive world title this year, notched the fastest time on the Melbourne street circuit. "Overall, this was a very productive Friday, as we did a lot of laps and got through an important initial analysis of the behaviour of the two types of Pirelli tyres available for this race," said Alonso.
"Our efforts were helped by particularly favourable weather with sunshine and summery temperatures.
"However, the weather is expected to change completely from tomorrow, with wind, rain and a significant drop in temperature, which could influence Sunday's race. "I'm not expecting any major surprises here, we already knew we were not the quickest and that was confirmed today. "The car responds well, but we know there is still much to do if we want to fight with the very best".
Brazilian Massa echoed those sentiments.
"All aspects of both sessions were positive, even if we are aware that much work still awaits us both this weekend and for the whole season ahead of us," Massa said after Friday's practice.