March 5th, 2013 (GMM).- Fernando Alonso is heading into next weekend's 2013 season opener with realistic expectations of a podium finish.
"I think so," the 2012 title runner-up is quoted by Spain's El Pais newspaper during a sponsor event in Barcelona on Monday.
Fabled Ferrari has had a much better winter compared to a year ago, when the Maranello team was multiple seconds off the pace.
Alonso fought back to lose the championship to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel by just 3 points, and he is expecting a similar contest in 2013.
"McLaren, Lotus will be there," he said.
"And Mercedes, who have worked on this car since the middle of last season, have improved.
"But it would be a major surprise if Red Bull is not in front of everyone," said Alonso.
"They should be able to win in Australia even with the car of Brazil (2012)."
He said his wish for 2013 is therefore to have a car "capable of fighting with the best".
"Able to win races and podiums," the Spaniard clarified.
"We can't forget that late last year we were 7 or 8 tenths behind the competition. So we will not be the fastest, but we will not be 1.6 seconds behind, as we were in Australia last year.
"But we are faster," he is quoted by the AS newspaper. "The base is infinitely better.
"I need a faster car to win, but two tenths (slower than the best) is enough."
Alonso said those trying to predict the Melbourne pecking-order based on winter testing will need to wait until next weekend to know the real answer.
"Impossible," he said when asked how easy it is to extrapolate Mercedes, McLaren, Red Bull and Lotus' true form based on the three Spanish tests.
"You don't go to a training camp to see if Barca is going to win on Sunday, or watch Djokovic and Nadal warm up to know the winner.
"The first four or five races will be a surprise for everyone," added Alonso.