SAKHIR, Bahrain -- Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali has conceded that his team will likely be playing catch-up to Mercedes throughout the Formula One season.
Speaking ahead of this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix, which will be a night race for the first time, Domenicali said rival engine manufacturers Mercedes and Renault have an advantage on Renault because their road-car divisions have more experience with fuel-efficient six-cylinder engines, which have come into F1 this year.
"We know that other engine manufacturers have advanced knowledge because they use that technology in their road cars, so we knew it was not going to be easy," Domenicali said on the official F1 website. "But we know the areas where we need to improve and falling into disappointment doesn't help."
"If Mercedes keeps the pace it will be very difficult to match them."
Ferrari has been well off the pace of the Mercedes team and Renault-powered Red Bull in the first two races in Australia and Malaysia, with Fernando Alonso's two fourth-place finishes the best the Italian team could manage.
Domenicali's discussions with Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel in the paddock at last weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix sparked renewed speculation that Ferrari was interested in signing the German, but the Ferrari chief insisted his team was satisfied with the performance of current drivers Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, who simply need a better car.
"That is the urgent need, and it has to happen very soon," Domenicali said. "So far Fernando has proved to be fast immediately. Kimi needs some time to understand the car, but you can see he is getting there. I am sure from the drivers' side there will not be a problem.
"Sebastian is a fantastic driver, a four-time champion. That's a fact. We as Ferrari are very pleased with what we have, and I am sure that Sebastian is also pleased with his situation because it looks as if he can fight again."