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>>>ANSA/ F1: Ferrari 'can fight for title' after shaky start

Alonso confident in Italian team's potential

27 March, 18:30
>>>ANSA/ F1: Ferrari 'can fight for title' after shaky start (By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Rome, March 27 - Ferrari's Fernando Alonso said Thursday that he was confident the team will be contending for this year's Formula One title after a shaky start to the season in the opening grand prix in Australia.

The Italian glamour team took 18 points from the race in Melbourne thanks to Alonso's fourth place and Finn Kimi Raikkonen's seventh.

Ferrari's new race car, the F14 T, proved reliable, but its speed deficit on race winner Nico Rosberg's Mercedes was worrying, especially as the Italian team have tended to make slow starts in recent years.

Alonso ended the race over 35 seconds behind Rosberg.

"We need to see how the next races go in terms of our own performance to learn how we can quickly develop the car to be in better shape," the Spaniard, who won the 2005 and 2006 world titles with Renault, told reporters ahead of Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.

"In Australia we were not happy with the performance we showed and we need to improve as quickly as possible.

"I believe we can fight for the championship.

"We have more potential than we showed in Australia. "The team has the facilities and the talent to do a very good job. It's not been a perfect start. "It seems like a repetition of the last couple of years, but these are different rules and a different rate of development applies. Our hopes are perfectly intact".

Those sentiments were echoed by Raikkonen, who has returned to Ferrari this season after a four-year absence.

"Obviously, it was not the ideal start to the year for the team, not what we wanted to achieve," he said. "However, after all the small difficulties we experienced in many areas, at least we got something out of it in terms of points. "It's going to be a long year. Hopefully, we can now build on it. "We have plenty of good people working flat out as a group to improve things. I am sure we will keep making progress".

The teams are trying to get to grips with a series of changes to the regulations this year, including the switch to turbocharged hybrid 1.6 litre V6 engines from 2.4 litre V8 ones.

World champion Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull team have threatened to pull out of the series because they do not like many aspects of the new system, including the limits on fuel consumption.

But Alonso said it was too early to judge.

"I think we need to give more time to see how the races are and how the show is and how the people react to this new Formula 1," he said. "There was a lot of talk before the Australian race about how exciting this new Formula One would be and how many cars will finish, maybe zero. "When 15 cars finish and there are not many problems and not many overtakings, that was not what the fans expected".

Ferrari 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.