Although there is great uncertainty about the competitive order ahead of next weekend's season opener in Melbourne, Ferrari is not expecting to be a pacesetter from the off.
However, team principal Stefano Domenicali believes the outfit is in much better shape than last year - when it took the title fight to the final round – and just being near the front will suffice for now.
"Unless someone else has done an exceptional job, I'm convinced that Ferrari will be in the battle to the end," he said.
"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 windtunnel 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 that 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."
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With F1 teams all eager to discover the speed of the various cars during qualifying in Australia, Domenicali has urged caution about reading too much into what happens at the first race.
"To think of drawing conclusions after the first qualifying session in Australia would be premature because it represents only the beginning of a long voyage that ends in November," he explained.
"I expect that the teams who finished in the top positions in Sao Paulo will repeat that in Melbourne, probably with a reduced advantage – that's what we are all hoping for, anyway."
Jonathan Noble, Group F1 editor
Speaking to engineers since the final Barcelona test, the only thing they can agree on the form book at the moment is that it is impossible to read.
There appear to be five teams mixing it up at the front – Red Bull, Lotus, Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren – but the order and the gaps between them is anyone's guess.
Ferrari's stance that it believes it is not at the head of that group is fuelled by two factors: the first a clear bid to play down expectations, and secondly perhaps a bit of reality about the strengths and weaknesses of its F138.
In Spain earlier this week, Alonso singled out 'braking' and 'traction' as the two areas where Ferrari could improve, and they just happen to be the very characteristics you want for the Albert Park circuit.
That is why a podium finish will not be a letdown for Ferrari.
The points earned by a top-three finish will put it ahead of where it was last year, and on a track that does not appear best suited to its 2013 car.
Ferrari is very much playing the long game right now. Starting as the pacesetter isn't the most important thing; ending the year as champion is.
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