Shanghai, April 12, 2012 (AFP) - Two-time world title holder Fernando Alonso warned Thursday that his lumbering Ferrari was still far off the pace, despite him sitting top of the drivers' championship going into Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix.
The Spaniard won a chaotic rain-affected race in Malaysia and has a five-point advantage over Lewis Hamilton ahead of the third grand prix of the season in Shanghai.
But he dampened expectations of more of the same this weekend, saying he needed luck and even perhaps more rain if he was to keep his challenge going in his much-maligned Ferrari, which has proved very difficult to handle.
"Nothing changed. I think it's going to be a tough weekend for us again," Alonso said.
"I don't expect any big surprises. As we've been saying, the team and myself, all week, the car has some small improvements, nothing big for this race and I think it's the same, more or less, for all the other teams around
us in the paddock."
He added that he and his team would need plenty of luck if they are to get anywhere near repeating the feat of three weeks ago in Sepang.
"It (luck) is always a factor that we always seem to forget is there," he said, pointing to his surprising triumph in the wet and wild Malaysian Grand Prix.
"So, it's always (there) -- a race or a grand prix is not only pace, a good strategy or good driving skills. It's a big package and luck is a big factor. Hopefully the luck is still with us this weekend."
Asked then if he was praying for rain, he said: "As I said, with a normal race we know our possibilities, we know our limitations at the moment, which is not quick enough.
"So in a wet race, we can lose a couple of points or we can win a lot more. Maybe this risk of a wet race can be good for us at the moment because in normal conditions we are not as fast as we expected."
The 30-year-old said that he was holding out for better from his car as the season goes on, but cautioned there were "no big improvements" yet.
"Formula One these days doesn't have a magic button where we change something. We arrive in China, we arrive in Barcelona, in Canada and you change one part on the car and you improve by one second," he said.