Date: 22nd March 2012 at 12:44pm
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It is becoming an unwelcome familiar pattern at Maranello. Ferrari promise so much in the close season, but then come the opening rounds of the championship they deliver very little.

This year is the fourth successive season where the Italian giants are lagging behind their competition, and never has the pressure been more intense.

In Melbourne, Fernando Alonso showed why he is arguably the finest driver on the grid with a superb drive to 5th. Felipe Massa on the other hand fell well short of his team mate and retired after spending much of the race languishing in the mid to lower positions.

His job is already under scrutiny, and it seems the obituaries to his Formula One career have already been written. Massa can probably count on being in the race seat until the end of the season, but beyond is highly unlikely.

With the 2012 car, Ferrari is struggling to fully understand their aggressive design. The car looks a handful to drive, clearly shown when both Massa and Alonso spun into the gravel trap in Melbourne. Replays suggest driver error, deeper analysis show the car?s twitchiness under braking was the main cause.

With heavy updates expected in Barcelona in May, the Ferrari team hope that this season isn?t lost before it has barely started. Alonso?s stellar second half to the 2010 season almost snatched the championship, despite struggling badly in the early rounds shows how they can come back.

So for the next three races in Malaysia, China and Bahrain damage limitation is the order of the day, and the unpredictable weather in both Kuala Lumpa and Shanghai is a positive. The opening four rounds are frantic and often a slightly incorrect measurement of the teams performance. There is no doubt the Ferrari has problems, but with the major updates it will be Barcelona before we can really judge where their season will go.

If the Italian giants can bridge the gap to the top three teams in Spain, then it is incredibly a lesser gap then it was last season when Alonso was consistently on the podium.

However, the dramatic improvement of the mid-field runners has been so huge that the Ferrari finds itself nearer the bottom then the top of the time sheets. Alonso was a second off the pace of the Red Bull in Australia, and with the resources that Stefano Domenicalli and his team have at their disposal, the Scarlett cars could yet mount a title challenge. If there is one thing we did learn in 2010, it is that you can never rule out Ferrari and especially, Fernando Alonso.

The Spaniard will be cracking the whip, so let?s just see how the prancing horse responds beyond the opening bend, before we totally write them off.

 

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