Motor racing-Alonso sees a faster Ferrari in Barcelona
May 3 (Reuters) - Ferrari hope to be much closer to their Formula One rivals at next week's Spanish Grand Prix after making progress in testing at the Mugello track in Italy, Fernando Alonso said on Thursday.
The Italian team have struggled with their new car in the first four races of the season, despite Alonso's victory against the odds in a wet Malaysia in March, but tried a new aerodynamic package this week.
"I cannot say if today at Mugello we can claim to have made up some ground, but in Barcelona, we will have more important updates and we hope that there, we can begin to close down the gap that separates us from the teams currently at the top," the Spaniard said.
"Barcelona will be a key moment in the season, but not a decisive one," added the double champion, looking ahead to his home race and the first of the European season.
"It's not a case that we will suddenly find ourselves back on pole position, because there is no magic button," he told the Ferrari website (www.ferrari.com).
"We must start by no longer struggling to get through to Q3 (the third and final phase of qualifying) and get closer to the top six, then continue with development in the following races, making a step forward in Monaco, Canada and Valencia also."
Alonso completed 98 laps on the final day of testing at the Ferrari-owned circuit with the third best time behind Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Lotus's Frenchman Romain Grosjean, who was fastest for the second day running.
The Spaniard will be at Ferrari's Fiorano test track on Tuesday for an event marking the 30th anniversary of the death of Canadian Ferrari great Gilles Villeneuve before heading to Barcelona.
Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 world champion, will drive his father's 1979 car at Fiorano.
Ferrari are fourth overall in the constructors' standings while Alonso is fifth the drivers' championship, 10 points adrift of world champion and current leader Vettel.
Alonso went off track in mid-morning, damaging the car's nose and losing two and a half hours of track time as the team fixed it, but he was happy nonetheless.
"The feeling I have after the test is a positive one," he said. "We have introduced a few small...aerodynamic updates that have produced the response we were expecting and that is the most positive news.
"I am confident for the future, in the short and the long term," added Alonso.
The Spaniard also gave his full support to the return of at least one in-season test after years of having none.
"I prefer this calendar to last year's because after the first races, one understands a lot more about the car and so one can make modifications that have a sense to them," he said.
"I would do more tests during the season...one lap here is worth 100 at other places, without considering that one day here is worth a year's work on the simulator, at least as far as I'm concerned." (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Mark Meadows)
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