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F1: Ferrari braced for unknown in season-opening race

Alonso performs well in first day of practice

14 March, 18:36
F1: Ferrari braced for unknown in season-opening race (By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Melbourne, March 14 - Ferrari say they are braced for the unexpected ahead of the season-opening Formula One grand prix in Australia.

Sunday's race may throw up surprises as the teams struggle to get to grips with a series of changes to the regulations, including the switch to turbocharged hybrid 1.6 litre V6 engines from 2.4 litre V8 ones.

The Italian glamour team, who are aiming to end the four-year dominance of world champion Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull outfit, performed well in Friday's practice sessions, but were keen not to read too much into this.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso clocked the fastest time in the first session and the third-fastest in the second, behind Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Alonso's teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who has returned to Ferrari this season after a four-year absence, notched the seventh-fastest time.

"Overall it was a positive day for us," said Alonso.

"Even though there were some fears about the complexity of applying the new rules to the car, it went well. "The team have done a super job and we didn't experience any problems".

"It's impossible to have a clear idea about our (level of) competitiveness, as the results of Friday's practices don't reveal too much," added the Spaniard, who won the 2005 and 2006 world titles with Renault.

"We have to wait until we're all competing in the same conditions to know more". Red Bull have struggled badly in pre-season testing, but they did better than expected Friday, with Vettel finishing fourth on the timesheets and his teammate Daniel Ricciardo sixth.

Alonso's caution was echoed by Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali.

"In my view today maybe you will see that some teams were a little bit hiding or having some issues for the day," Domenicali told a press conference.

"Tomorrow (in qualifying) the situation will be different again. "If there will also be different weather conditions, this will be another thing we never tested with this car so far, so the managing of the car in possibly wet conditions could be another exciting or challenging thing for all of us. "But so far, it's important that we were able to run with the programme we wanted even if we had some little issue to solve. "But that's part of the game, it's just the first free practice of a long season".

The team are out to end a long dry run, with their last constructor's championship win dating to 2008 and the last drivers' title going back to when Finn Raikkonen won in 2007 during his first stint with the team.

Ferrari have made many changes to their technical facilities and management team in order to get back to the top of the sport.

Domenicali is confident the results will soon be on display.

"We've done a great job in the last couple of years to restructure the team, restructure the facility, that was absolutely the imperative thing to do and I think that now we are in the way that we should be to do the best we can in these conditions," he said.

Furthermore, Raikkonen's return gives Ferrari an awesome driver line-up together with Alonso, who has been at Ferrari since 2010.

There is a danger, however, that having two big names in the same team could cause friction, with no lead driver taking precedence.

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