Alonso: I am better than last year

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso painting during a sponsor event

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso warned his Formula 1 rivals that he was in better shape than ever, and is expecting to enjoy his best year ever at the pinnacle of the sport.

The Spaniard, a double world champion with Renault, told reporters at a media event for sponsors Santander at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya that the season starting in Australia next week could be his best yet.

“Last year was the best year of my career and I was very happy with the performance, but I think this year will be better,” said Alonso. “We have a better starting point, and I have learned from some of the mistakes from last year.”

“The trust, confidence and motivation are better than any other year and pit stop wise, with starts – all these things – we are constantly learning. I have prepared better. I am better than last year.”

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso Ferrari F138

Alonso finished overall runner-up to Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel last year but, in fighting for the title with a car that was not the fastest and that had started the season well off the pace, felt it was the most satisfying of his career.

The new Ferrari F138 has looked far more competitive in testing and Alonso has said it is 200 times better than the old one, which still won three races last year, was at this stage of the season.

The Spaniard did not take part in the first pre-season test in Jerez, preferring to focus on his fitness instead with a regime that Ferrari said was worthy of a top Olympic athlete.

“(Last year) I was obviously motivated and wanted to win, but I arrived in Australia and Malaysia without very much confidence of what we could do and not so much confidence in the car,” he said. “I did not have so much trust in what we were doing… we were a little bit lost.

Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa at a Santander and Ferrari sponsorship event

Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa at a Santander and Ferrari sponsorship event

“I am more motivated than last year, but of course I also need a better car than last year because we were too far from the leaders,” added the 31-year-old.

Alonso expected Red Bull, with triple champion Vettel and Australian Mark Webber, to be ahead still in Melbourne but felt a podium should be in reach for Ferrari.

“McLaren, Lotus will be there,” he said when asked for his prediction. “And Mercedes, who have worked on this car since the middle of last season, have improved. But it would be a major surprise if Red Bull is not in front of everyone. They should be able to win in Australia even with the car of Brazil (2012).”

Alonso said his wish for 2013 is therefore to have a car “capable of fighting with the best and able to win races and podiums,” the Spaniard clarified.

Fernando Alonso (seen here with Flavio Briatore) was last world champion in 2006 with Renault

Fernando Alonso (seen here with Flavio Briatore) was last world champion in 2006 with Renault

“We can’t forget that late last year we were 7 or 8 tenths behind the competition. So we will not be the fastest, but we will not be 1.6 seconds behind, as we were in Australia last year.”

“But we are faster. The base is infinitely better. I need a faster car to win, but two tenths (slower than the best) is enough,” declared the double world champion.

Alonso said those trying to predict the Melbourne pecking-order based on winter testing will need to wait until the Australian GP weekend to know the real answer.

“Impossible,” he said when asked how easy it is to extrapolate Mercedes, McLaren, Red Bull and Lotus’ true form based on the three Spanish tests. “You don’t go to a training camp to see if Barca is going to win on Sunday, or watch Djokovic and Nadal warm up to know the winner. The first four or five races will be a surprise for everyone.” (Reuters & GMM)