Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali confident ahead of new F1 season

The opening Grand Prix takes place in Australia

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The Independent Online

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali is already convinced the Prancing Horse will remain alive and kicking to the end of the new Formula One campaign even before a wheel has turned in anger.

A year ago Ferrari headed to Melbourne for the season-opening grand prix fearful as to their chances after building a car a long way off the pace of their main rivals.

The fact Fernando Alonso only missed out on the title by three points come the conclusion was testimony to not only his skill as a driver, but the team's fortitude and determination to right their wrongs.

But it was primarily due to such a wretched start that Alonso emerged a close runner-up to three-times champion Sebastian Vettel for the second time in three years.

On this occasion, with first practice in Melbourne just eight days away, Domenicali and the rest of his team are of the belief there will be no slow start to hold them back.

"What are the factors that have convinced me Ferrari has made a step forward?" said Domenicali.

"The new business structure, the working methods, the modifications to the equipment we have used to work on this car, the consistency of the results compared with our targets and what we saw in the recent tests.

"These all seem to tell us we are on the right path at last compared to the past.

"So to make an analysis that is purely centred on ourselves, unless someone else has done an exceptional job, I'm convinced Ferrari will be in the battle to the end."

Around Melbourne's Albert Park last year Alonso qualified a wretched 12th, but managed to haul himself up to fifth by the chequered flag.

It was a feat he repeated on many occasions last year as qualifying pace often let down the Spaniard, only to make ground in the races.

But for this season in Melbourne, Domenicali is eyeing a top-three finish for Ferrari, adding: "A podium in Australia would be a good base on which to build the kind of successes we need.

"What's more, apart from the actual performance of the car, our work in the wind tunnel is an element that gives us faith in the area of aerodynamics, where 90 per cent of the performance comes from, so we can work with a certain calmness.

"The stability of the rules is another guarantee there won't be surprises with any exceptional creative solutions that make a big difference, and I'm especially confident given the changes we made last year."