No more excuses, say Ferrari
At the Circuit de Catalunya
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali surveys the Formula 1 paddock through mirrored windows from a scrupulously tidy white office on the first floor of the team's pristine motorhome.
What he could see on Friday morning at the Spanish Grand Prix was a world still coming to terms with the news that Ferrari have extended their commitment to Fernando Alonso, rated by many in F1 as the finest racing driver in the world, until the end of 2016.
As Alonso munched his breakfast outside his boss's office, the satisfaction Domenicali took from this development was plain. Yet the genial 46-year-old Italian remains a man with bigger problems to solve.
After the crushing disappointment of handing the 2010 drivers' title to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel after a strategy error left Alonso stranded down the field in the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari were expecting to bounce back strongly this season.
Ferrari have not yet laid down a serious challenge to Red Bull this season
So the reality that their car is lagging a long way behind Red Bull on pace has been something of a shock, and it has triggered a period of introspection and self-analysis at Maranello.
While Vettel has stormed to three wins and a second place in the first four races of the season, Ferrari and Alonso had to wait until the Turkish Grand Prix two weeks ago to score their first podium finish.
The sport's most iconic team has been open about the fact that the problem has a dual cause.
As their president Luca di Montezemolo has said: "We were a little bit too conservative with the new (car) project but also unfortunately we faced something we have never seen before - that the wind tunnel results have not been confirmed by the track. This is not an easy problem (to solve)."
In a rare exclusive interview here, Domenicali projected a tough edge that some in the paddock have at times accused of him of lacking - especially in comparison with his ruthless predecessor, Jean Todt, now president of the governing body the FIA.
"No doubt I was expecting a better car because from the winter testing the feeling was not too bad," Domenicali says. "We have discussed that we have this problem with the correlation from the wind tunnel.
"But as I said to my people, I do not want to speak about this again. The situation is as it is. For the last grand prix it seems not too bad in the race but we definitely need to improve in qualifying otherwise the race is always difficult.
"That's where we stand now. My engineers (must) just understand that the others are pushing very hard and we need to improve. Full stop."
The wind tunnel problem is one thing - it has arisen from Ferrari's switch from using a 50% scale model of their car to simulate aerodynamic performance to a 60% model, and it is the sort of thing that can happen.
More worrying is the creeping conservatism in the design office. Domenicali admits that the roots of it lay in the team's domination of the early part of the last decade with Michael Schumacher, when a process of gradual iteration of a proven concept delivered five consecutive world titles.
That all changed with the introduction of new regulations in 2009, when Ferrari had their least competitive season for years. They recovered impressively to fight for the title with Alonso last year, but that championship bid was aided by Red Bull's faltering progress - it is not as if Ferrari had the fastest car.
"First of all," Domenicali says, "with all respect you can see I was pushing my team since Turkey 2010 to be more aggressive in terms of design, in terms of approach to the car.
"It's a matter of mentality, ideas and organisation. And I really push with my people to go towards that route that is not really there at the moment.
"That doesn't mean if you are conservative you can't win, because if you remember last year, unfortunately the result was not in our favour, but if Abu Dhabi had been different, the season would have been not great but fantastic.
"So we don't need to throw away all the things that relate to a different methodology, or a more normal approach to the design of the car.
"It is a matter of balance, but for sure I am pushing my people to look ahead in a different way. The new elements of the regulation now are quite clear, and I want to see a step in that direction very soon - different ideas, different concepts."
The Ferrari designers, then, face a period of mounting pressure. Not only is the boss on their back, but the knowledge that Alonso has committed the rest of his career to Ferrari creates a heavy burden that is rooted in its obvious benefits.
Alonso is, as Domenicali says, a "reference", one of very few drivers a team knows they can count on to deliver every last bit of a car's potential, on every lap, of every race of the season.
He has a tireless pursuit of perfection and he drives his employers hard. His view is simple - give me the car and I will win the championship for you.
For their part, the designers know that with Alonso there is no hiding place. Any shortfall in performance cannot be laid at the door of the driver. It can only be that the car is not quick enough.
That, says Domenicali, is the whole point. "That's what I need," he says. "I don't want to hear from my engineers that they have a problem with the wind tunnel. If you have something to improve you have to do it. The time of excuses is finished. I don't want to look for excuses - this is not our style, and it's not mine."