Shanghai, April 16, 2012 (AFP) - The name is synonymous with Formula One, but Ferrari admit they are well off the pace so far this season and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso is clearly deeply unhappy with his F2012 car.
Then there is team-mate Felipe Massa, whose position with one of the biggest names in the history of the sport is under scrutiny as he is in the last year of his contract, amid rumours he could be replaced next season by
It is not all doom and gloom -- Alonso won the second grand prix of the season last month in Malaysia -- but even he admitted that was due in part to a sizeable slice of luck after a wet and chaotic race.
The 30-year-old Spaniard, who needed every ounce of his undoubted talent to get his cumbersome Ferrari fastest around the slippery Sepang circuit, has made no attempt to hide his dissatisfaction with the car.
After finishing ninth in the dry at the Chinese Grand Prix Sunday, he said: "Obviously this does not leave me very optimistic for Bahrain (the next race), on a track where traction and speed are vital, exactly the areas where we are weakest.
"Once again next week it will be mainly a case of damage limitation. I don't want to think of the classification because the priority is to improve the performance of the F2012."
Racing experts say that Ferrari may be struggling because, eager to catch up with the pace-setting McLarens and Red Bulls, the Italian team tried to make too many drastic changes -- a move that has so far backfired badly.
The main deficiency appears to be speed, or rather the Ferrari's lack of it on straights compared with the likes of the improved Mercedes and Lotus cars.
Ferrari technical director Pat Fry is under pressure to deliver a better machine -- and sooner rather than later.
"Clearly today, we paid a very heavy price for the lack of a good top speed on a track like this," he said in Shanghai, referring to the long straights.
"We lack performance, we know it, but there is no point in beating ourselves up over it. Rather, we need to concentrate all our efforts on improving car performance."
Fry says Ferrari have "a reasonable understanding" of what the problems are "and the areas we need to be working on".
Identifying "a number of different issues" his engineers had been wrestling with since pre-season testing, he said: "The most obvious one from the early testing was the exhaust system, where we were struggling with what that was doing to the rear tyres."
Fry said he was confident that they now understood that conundrum "and are on top of that". But he also admitted that there were plenty of other issues and "a huge amount of work" ahead."
I don't really want to go into where all the problems are -- it's not just a case of us trying to build a quicker car," he added.
"We need to fundamentally be changing the methodologies that we use to select, design and manufacture so that we are competitive long term."