Alonso lacking pace to challenge Vettel

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Fernando Alonso has admitted that Ferrari have a great deal of work to do in order to challenge pace-setter Sebastian Vettel this weekend.

“I’m not expecting any major surprises here, we already knew we were not the quickest and that was confirmed today. The car responds well, but we know there is still much to do if we want to fight with the very best.”

Alonso finished a strong third in FP1 behind Vettel and teammate Felipe Massa, but Ferrari could not continue this good form in FP2. Double-champion Alonso could only finish sixth, over eight-tenths off Vettel’s time. However, he was still pleased with his efforts during practice.

“Overall, this was a very productive Friday, as we did a lot of laps and got through an important initial analysis of the behavior of the two types of Pirelli tires available for this race.”

Ferrari look to be in the running for a podium this weekend, and although Alonso was satisfied with his pace, he did admit that it may change on Saturday or Sunday should the predicted rain showers arrive in Melbourne.

“Our efforts were helped by particularly favorable weather with sunshine and summery temperatures. However, the weather is expected to change completely from tomorrow, with wind, rain and a significant drop in temperature, which could influence Sunday’s race.”

Despite not matching Red Bull on Friday, Ferrari are in a better position than this time last season as Alonso and Massa struggled with the F2012. Both drivers have revealed their delight with the new car, the F138, and if they can develop the car over the coming weeks, Red Bull may face stiff competition in defending their world championships.

McLaren unveils 2018 F1 car, the MCL33

Photo: Getty Images
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McLaren F1 Team became the latest to launch their 2018 challenger on Friday, taking the covers off their new MCL33 chassis early on Friday morning.

McLaren endured a difficult 2017 season of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, with their partnership with Honda eventually dissolving after a troublesome power unit saw them plagued by unreliability and low power.

A switch to Renault power units is expected to see them get an uptick in form, and the MCL33 chassis itself is actually an evolution on last year’s MCL32. Still, the team highlighted areas to improve upon, and aims for a return to prominence in 2018.

“The McLaren team was created by a brave pioneer, and has had bravery at its core ever since. Whether it’s been with brave drivers, brave leaders or brave fortune, this team has always fought back. And we definitely view 2018 as the year when McLaren will move closer to the front, fighting teams and drivers as we improve our fortunes,” said Zak Brown, executive director of McLaren Technology Group.

Brown also highlighted the car’s new papaya orange livery, a throwback to some of the most popular color schemes that have adorned McLaren entrants in a variety of disciplines. Brown indicated that this came about from requests of fans who wanted to see such a livery return to the McLaren marque.

“Our return to a papaya orange livery for this year wasn’t simply an emotional decision; it demonstrates that we are listening to our fans, building deeper engagement with them and the Formula 1 community as a whole. We want McLaren to earn respect on and off the track, and this felt like a good starting point. We want to show everyone what makes this team special, whether that’s our fans or our partners – there’s room for more on our journey.”

The team’s racing director Eric Boullier expressed optimism about the team’s potential for 2018, but also acknowledged the season will be sure to see its fair share of challenges.

“I think the whole team feels proud of this car,” he asserted. “The design, engineering and aerodynamic departments have done an incredible job delivering a new car with a new power unit in an extremely short timeframe. We never took the easy route or looked to shortcut a process or a solution; and the result is a car that is neat and well-resolved.

“That said, we are under no illusions that it will be difficult to splinter the hegemony at the front; and that the midfield will be full of well-funded, experienced outfits with plenty to prove. We are humble about the challenge ahead, but feel we’ve prepared well, have a solid package that we can build upon and exploit as the season progresses, and have two excellent drivers who will make the difference in races.”

The MCL33 took to the track on Friday for filming at a test track in Spain, and will be run in anger for the first time when testing begins next week at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

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