Alonso: Ferrari needs a sharp improvement

CHRIS LINES AP Auto Racing Writer Published:

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso acknowledges the team needs to improve sharply and quickly on the performance it showed in Sunday's F1 season opener when the scarlet cars were well off the pace of their rivals.

Alonso finished fourth and the returning Kimi Raikkonen was seventh in the Australian Grand Prix, and while the team avoided the engine failures that hit Mercedes and Red Bull, it was also a long way off the pace of those teams, as well as McLaren and even Williams.

Alonso finished 35 seconds behind race winner Nico Rosberg, and when adjusting for the time behind the safety car and some late coasting by the German, it showed the Ferrari was about a second a lap slower than the Mercedes.

"We're not happy with the performance we showed today, we need to improve," Alonso said.

"On the other hand, it's the first race of the world championship and we cannot become crazy about what we saw today; we just know we need to work."

The gap to Mercedes was predictable heading into Melbourne, given the performance differential in preseason testing, but Ferrari would be concerned that it was also outpaced by Red Bull -- which had struggled in testing -- and a rejuvenated McLaren. Williams driver Valtteri Bottas may have finished 12 seconds behind Alonso, but that was after having lost a wheel early in the race and limping back to the pits.

Kimi Raikkonen, who was returning to the team to give Ferrari's its first past world-champion pairing since 1953, was even further off the pace and spent much of the race battling with the Toro Rosso cars.

"It's not the first time I have been in this position," Raikkonen said when asked about a slow start to the season. "We will wait and see what it takes to fix this, if it takes a week or a month."

Alonso and Raikkkonen were both promoted one place in the race classification after initial second place-getter Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull was disqualified for breaching this season's new fuel flow regulations.