Italy: When Fernando Alonso joined Ferrari two years ago he expected to add to the two Formula One titles he won with Renault. He hasn't so far, with Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel dominating the sport. But Alonso remains patient, and the Spaniard isn't worried about failing to take advantage of his prime driving years.
"Not really, I've still got many years to come," Alonso said on Thursday at Ferrari's annual winter retreat in the Italian Dolomites.
"I'm 30 years old and there are guys racing at 42 or 43, so I guess every year I will improve a little bit. Maybe as you get older you lose some speed, but you gain experience so it compensates."
While Alonso lost the 2010 title to Vettel in the season's final race, he finished a disappointing fourth in last year's driver standings, as Ferrari had a problematic year with aerodynamics and tires.
Alonso took Ferrari's only victory last year at the British Grand Prix and the team began working on the 2012 car at about the same time.
The new car will be publicly revealed on Feb. 3.
"I saw it in the wind tunnel, I saw the development programs, but those are only numbers and lines on a computer," Alonso said.
"I can't say anything about how it will perform yet. We probably won't know until the second or third race the real worth of the car."
This year's first test session is slated for the week of Feb. 6 in Jerez, Spain, while the opening race of 2012 is in Melbourne, Australia on March 18.
Ferrari's domination in the past was due in part to its unlimited testing at its private track in Fiorano, but series-wide testing bans now limit that advantage.
Alonso stays fresh driving go-karts instead.
"It's like requiring (Lionel) Messi to train with a tennis ball instead of a football, or (Rafael) Nadal to train with a ping-pong racket," Alonso said.
"I think they would have just as many problems when they get back out on the field as we do."
Former McLaren mastermind Pat Fry took over as Ferrari's technical director midway through last season and his impact could be felt more this year.
"When Pat arrived, he tried to change some things, and he was surprised by some of the ways Ferrari works. But by combining his different experience and approach, I think we can maximize our potential," Alonso said.
"The team has improved in all areas.
"The team is working more effectively and in a more efficient way the last couple months. Last year we had some problems with the wind tunnel, otherwise the car was very good. If we do a good job (with the car) we will be able to win races."
But will Ferrari do enough to restore its position as the F1 leader?
"If I had a crystal ball I would tell you," Alonso said. "But now it's Jan. 12 and I'm not optimistic or pessimistic — but we're working every day."