Dour preseason frustrates Ferrari's Formula One title hopes
Ferrari's new car design lacked a competitive edge during recent testing
Pat Fry said Ferrari has no shot at the podium in the Australian Grand Prix
Fernando Alonso: 'You could say we are not exactly where we want to be'
MADRID (AP) -- Ferrari's dour preseason has undermined the Italian team's Formula One title hopes, and will likely leave a frustrated Fernando Alonso in Red Bull's rearview mirror again.
Ferrari's new design lacked competitive edge in testing and appears to have fallen behind McLaren and Lotus in the chase to dethrone Red Bull and two-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel.
Pat Fry already said Ferrari has no shot at the podium in the season opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday as the team struggles to stabilize an already radically redesigned car.
"I saw in (team principal Stefano) Domenicali and our engineers a great desire to show what they're worth and to react to a winter program that didn't live up to our targets," Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo said. "We will only discover the truth about where we stand compared to the others after Saturday's qualifying session in Melbourne. Today we can only make assumptions."
Fry replaced technical director Aldo Costa last season when the Italian team struggled, and the decision to take risks on this year's design has left Ferrari looking vulnerable due to its inability to completely understand its car in testing.
"The new car has certain characteristics that are difficult to understand, and you could say we are not exactly where we want to be," said two-time world champion Alonso, the Spanish driver who is going into his third season with the team. "But we've all lived through many Formula One seasons and we all know very well that until we're in Australia we don't really know where we stand regarding to the others."
Since Kimi Raikkonen edged Alonso and then McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton for the 2007 title in the season's final race, the Italians have struggled to compete with McLaren and Red Bull, who have swept to three of the four titles since. Alonso, meanwhile, has twice lost championships in season finales, the last to Vettel during his debut season with Ferrari.
Alonso won at Silverstone last year but Ferrari never mounted a serious challenge to Vettel, who won 11 of 19 races to become the youngest driver to win back-to-back titles. That broke Alonso's record earned with Renault in 2005 and '06.
Teammate Felipe Massa, meanwhile, is racing to keep his place on the team after two sub-par seasons that followed a serious crash in Hungary in 2009. The Brazilian driver, who lost the 2008 title on the last lap of the season when Hamilton edged him by a point, hasn't had a top-three finish in 21 races.
Struggling on the track, Domenicali turned to the country's storied tradition in soccer for inspiration.
"To those who ask me if I would sign today for a third place in Melbourne, I would say that I'm not signing anything," said Domenicali, going into his fifth season in charge, and still in search of his first title. "Maybe the same will happen as in 1982 when in the World Cup, Italy got off to a bad start, and then in the end, went on to win when it mattered.
"Sport goes in cycles ... and at the moment, this is the Red Bull cycle."
Perhaps Alonso should note Raikkonen's words at the close of preseason testing last week.
"There is no point to guess here. I don't know who's going to be fastest," Raikkonen of Lotus said. "Nobody knows."
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