The Ferrari Formula 1 team has had a disappointing, given its normally high standards, last few seasons. The euphoria and joy that came with the clinical dominance of the first decade of the 21st century - with Michael Schumacher winning a record five straight Drivers' championships and the Italian team winning eight Constructors' titles in the ten seasons between 1999 and 2008 all seem like a distant dream these days, with Fernando Alonso often struggling to match the Red Bulls and the McLarens for pace and reliability, while his team mate, Felipe Massa, is in seemingly terminal decline; so much so he has now reportedly been warned by the team to immediately improve performances or risk being fired.
In the past three seasons, the prancing horse's best finish, in the drivers' race, has been second - in 2010 and third in the constructors' race - in 2010 and 2011. On the face of it, that is not too bad a run of results, given the generally dominant performances of the Red Bulls and the McLarens. However, Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo is considerably less than impressed.
According to a report on Formula1.com, the Italian has told team members they will have to dramatically improve their performances to re-establish and regain lost glory.
"Winning the championship depends only and exclusively on ourselves: on our ability, our creativity, our determination and our desire to show that we are the best. The championship is in our own hands," di Montezemolo said, in a letter to the team.
The president also added he expected both drivers to produce results, insisting the team could not survive if only one was scoring consistently; the remark is sure to increase pressure on Felipe Massa ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix to be held between 24 May and 27 May. Massa has only two points after the opening five rounds of the 2012 Championships, compared to Alonso's 61.
In the run up to the Monaco Grand Prix, the team's official Web site quotes technical director Pat Fry, as explaining the difficulties of setting up the car for the street circuit.
"You have to set the car up quite differently for Monaco. On the street circuit you don't attack all the corner entries as hard as you would on a normal circuit, because the barriers are so close to the track at the entry and exit. You need as much downforce as possible and a car that behaves consistently. However, trying to get the right car balance is as difficult as at the other venues," Fry explained.
Fry also confirmed there would be new updates to the car, as the season moves into the traditional European calendar.
"In the medium term we are constantly driving to bring in updates, as indeed is the case for all teams. For Canada (8 June - 10 June), we will have a different rear wing and front wing package, which will deliver a slightly different downforce level for this circuit. Work on the exhaust system is ongoing," he added, while explaining there was significantly more performance that was as yet untapped.
"I think most of them (the updates) worked as expected. There are a few things that we're still looking at now trying to understand if they're working to the right level. I think all of the bits added performance - some just a little bit less than we were expecting - so all in all I think everyone's reasonably happy with the update we made. Obviously we've still got a long way to go; we've just got to keep on working at a similar rate," he was quoted as saying in an ESPN report.
Finally, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, the defending Drivers' Champion, has admitted he is looking forward to the weekend's race.
"It's something special to race in Monaco; it's tight and there's no room for error. It's rough and, as it's a street circuit, the road surface is uneven so you get shaken in the car and there is no room for mistakes. You have to push yourself and the car to the limit to be fast, you have to push as hard as on other tracks, but there's no room," the German said to Formula1.com.