AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Published — Saturday 2 February 2013
Last update 1 February 2013 9:52 pm
MILAN: Fernando Alonso said yesterday the battle for Formula One supremacy could be a lot tighter this year ahead of his bid to improve on two runner-up places behind Sebastian Vettel with a maiden title for Ferrari.
Last season’s world championship was remarkable for the fact there were seven race-winners in the first seven races before Alonso went toe-to-toe with Red Bull ace Vettel in a decisive, thrilling finale at Interlagos.
Vettel, the sport’s youngest-ever three-time world champion (2010, 2011, 2012), finished sixth at the legendary Brazilian circuit, where Alonso was second, to beat his Spanish rival to the title by only three points.
Alonso, speaking at the launch of Ferrari’s new F138 car for the upcoming season, indicated that their anticipated duel in 2013 could leave rivals trailing in their wake from the season-opening Australian GP in March.
“I think the likelihood of seeing seven different race winners in the first seven races, like last year, will be impossible,” he said.
“There will be a maximum of two or three teams” battling for the title, he added, “and one of those will definitely be Ferrari.” Alonso, a two-time world champion with Renault in 2005 and 2006, joined Ferrari for the 2010 season and finished runner-up to Vettel.
He finished a disappointing fourth in 2011 but in 2012 won three times and secured a total of 13 podium places before being piped by Vettel at the finish.
Afterwards, he said: “Next year, we will try and improve the car, trying to start further up the grid, thus avoiding accidents. Let’s hope we also have a bit more luck.” The F138 — whose name represents the current year and the car’s V8 engine, which will be used for the last time this season — was unveiled at Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters in northern Italy yesterday.
Ferrari described it as “an evolution of last year’s race-winning car, although every single part has been revised in order to maximize performance while maintaining the characteristics which were the basis of the F2012’s superb reliability.” “The rear of the car is much narrower and more tapered than before,” said Ferrari, although “significant modifications will be made to the car’s aero package” before the Australian Grand Prix on March 17.
One major change Ferrari has made, one year ahead of schedule, is in the electronics domain with the early introduction of the single control unit that will be used in 2014.
Alonso is set to get his first taste of the F138 at a pre-season testing session in Barcelona from February 19. It means Brazilian Felipe Massa will be at the wheel for the first pre-season test at Jerez in Spain next week.
Massa, who finished seventh overall last season, believes the car is equipped sufficiently to allow Ferrari to aim for both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles.
“I hope it will bring the two titles to Ferrari. It’s the only thing we want,” he said.
Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo said last year he wants to see three-times champion Vettel race for the Italian team in the future.
But yesterday Di Montezemolo ruled out the possibility of seeing Alonso and Vettel in the same team. “Absolutely not,” replied Di Montezemolo.