Alonso: Start can only be better
Fernando Alonso says it would be "impossible" for Ferrari to start the 2013 season as badly as they did in 2012, and enters the new campaign full of optimism that this year will deliver his third world title.
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A little under a year ago Ferrari were deep in the doldrums, their new F2012 challenger proving off the pace and - Alonso's rain-assisted win at the second race of the season in Malaysia aside - largely uncompetitive in the early rounds.
The Spaniard nevertheless stayed well in the title hunt as seven different drivers won the first seven races, and subsequently used an improved Ferrari to take the title fight to the final round, where he lost out to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel by three points.
Although Ferrari's 2013 car is yet to turn a wheel in anger, two-time champion Alonso believes the team's form at the end of last season, allied to settled technical regulations, means the new campaign is shaping up much better for the Scuderia.
"It is maybe impossible to be worse than last year, so I am confident," Alonso told Ferrari's 'Wrooom' media event. "I am more confident, no doubt.
"The rules are continuing more or less the same as last year in terms of aerodynamics.
"In the winter of 2012 we changed completely the exhaust position compared to 2011, and it was a little bit of a guess what we found on the car.
"But this year everything should be much more normal and we are much more confident.
"We can be faster or slower (than our rivals) but not 1.5 or two seconds off the pace, because that was a record we had last year.
"We have been strengthened with new members in the team; we trust our technicians and we have total trust in the new arrivals in team, total trust in the heads and bosses."
Alonso's team-mate Felipe Massa also has reason to be cheerful heading into the start of the new campaign in Australia on March 17 after ending 2012 with a string of improved performances, including podiums in Japan and at his home race in Brazil.
Massa was under enormous pressure for much of last season with Sergio Perez - who eventually joined McLaren - tipped to take his seat.
The 2008 championship runner-up nevertheless proved his worth to the team, and hopes the latter half of last season augers well for Melbourne and beyond.
"What we have done in the second part of the championship was a bit of training for this season," said Massa, whose last victory came at the final race of 2008 in Brazil, the year he lost out on the title to Lewis Hamilton by one point.
"I want to be competitive from the start to the end, I want to return to winning and also hope to be able to fight for the championship.
"I have done this in the past, I have not forgotten this."
Reflecting on his upturn in form last season, Massa added: "It was vital for me to change my approach, not so much in terms of understanding the car better or the tyres, but getting a better understanding of myself, believing in my ability, even when so many people said I'd lost it.
"I took to the track trying to find a sense of calm and especially trying to enjoy myself and that helped a lot in regaining my self-confidence.
"Today, I feel the fire still burns inside me and I know I can win and be competitive at the highest level."