While disappointed not to start the Formula One season with a podium finish, Fernando Alonso says his Ferrari never had the pace to win the Australian Grand Prix.
Alonso finished fourth on Sunday, while teammate Felipe Massa could do no better than seventh.
Alonso lost out on the tight first corner, squeezed onto the grass and pushed downed to ninth in the running order. He managed to race his way back into contention, but admits his car was not quick enough to challenge the leaders.
The Spaniard said Ferrari now has its work cut out to catch up with the speed and reliability of pacesetters Red Bull and McLaren.
"We got off to a good start, although it was a bit chaotic," the two-time world champion said. "We could have come third but no higher."
Both Ferraris went for a three pit stop strategy, while the podium finishers only had two.
"I was eighth or ninth at one point, thanks to the stops we overtook two cars," Alonso said. "We did make an extra stop but we regained our positions."
Team assistant technical director Pat Fry said Ferrari employed the right pitting tactics for the circumstances Alonso found himself in.
"With Fernando we made the right choices given what happened on the opening lap, when he found himself back in ninth place," Fry said. "Thanks to the pit stops and some good passing moves ... he was fighting for a podium finish right up to the final lap."
He said the team had plenty of room for improvement heading to the next race in Malaysia on April 10.
"We are in the right zone for us to be able to win a title, but definitely not if we keep finishing third or fourth," Alonso said. "We have to improve, we know that, but it's still to early to make any predictions."
Massa, who had his official result improved from ninth to seventh after both Saubers were disqualified for a technical breach, dueled fiercely for fourth with McLaren's Jenson Button in the early stages. Button eventually using a slip road to pass the Brazilian, cost him a drive-through penalty.
"It was very tight. When he passed me, cutting the chicane, I expected him to be penalized," the Brazilian said.
Massa said Ferrari is a better team that it was able to show in Melbourne.
"We have to get down to work to understand fully what happened, because we have not shown our true potential."