With just one more test remaining, and only four teams scheduled to take part, two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso believes that Ferrari, BMW and Brawn are the clear pace-setters, and that his former team, McLaren, is struggling.
"The times being set by Ferrari, Brawn and BMW are, for the moment, out of reach," he told members of the Spanish media yesterday.
Having admitted that Toyota is also looking good, the Spaniard continued: "You have to think that finishing fifth here, with only one car per team, represents 10th place in the race. There are three or four teams who are a step ahead of us. Even then, it's not all about winning the first race in Melbourne because the championship is very long. There have been many changes and this season will not be a closed battle between Ferrari and McLaren."
Despite assurances from Ron Dennis, McLaren appears to be struggling, a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed by the driver who 'enjoyed' a tempestuous season with the Woking outfit in 2007.
"They have had days without making progress and are being left behind," he said. "They have tested the car with their drivers and it's not going very well for them, although this does not mean anything at the moment."
On the subject of the real surprise at Barcelona, Brawn, the Spaniard doesn't subscribe to the showboating scenario being touted by some within the pitlane.
"That they should be so quick in the first tests is not normal," he said. "The truth is that they have a car that Honda began working on in 2007. You can see that in its design, because it is a very detailed car with a different look to the others."
And on his own chances: "I am more optimistic than this time last year. In 2008 I was not optimistic and after the first two or three races I thought that for the rest of the championship I would be a tourist in those cities where we were competing.
"The truth is that we are not too far off," he continued. "We are just a few tenths from the leaders and this situation is better than last year."