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Ferrari chief 'concerned' by F1 rivals' progress

Fernando Alonso has plenty to think about despite winning two of the last three races for Ferrari.

Story highlights

  • Ferrari's Fernando Alonso leads F1 world championship ahead of Hungarian Grand Prix
  • His team's president expresses concern that main rivals will close the gap
  • McLaren drivers have won five of the last seven races at the Hungaroring
  • Maria de Villota leaves Spanish hospital to continue recovery from crash in Britain

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has warned his team not to get carried away by this season's remarkable turnaround in form.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso will take a 34-point lead over Red Bull's Mark Webber into Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix despite having almost written off the Scuderia's title chances in preseason.

After early misgivings over the 2012 car, the Spaniard now has three successes from 10 starts -- two of them in the last three grands prix. Webber, with two victories, is the only other driver to have topped the podium more than once.

Alonso's teammate Felipe Massa is back in 14th overall with only 23 points, meaning second-placed Ferrari trail Red Bull by 53 points in the manufacturers' standings after last Sunday's race in Germany.

"I am concerned, more so than the day after Valencia (when Alonso won his second race of 2012)," Montezemolo said on the Ferarri website ahead of the final race before Formula One's month-long break.

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"I see very strong opponents: McLaren has made great progress, Red Bull is very strong, Sauber had a race pace that was a match for ours and Lotus is very strong at times.

"Therefore, we have to be very careful. After we had a difficult start to the season, maybe our rivals did not expect to see Ferrari capable of fighting back this strongly, but now they will redouble their efforts to beat us. Therefore, we must stay very focused and continue our efforts to improve continuously."

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Alonso was third at the Hungaroring last year as Jenson Button gave McLaren a fifth victory in seven years at the circuit, which is one of the slowest on the F1 calendar.

"It's going to be tight again. It's a very short circuit, and as we saw this year, in two- or three-tenths there are eight, nine cars," Alonso said on the F1 website.

"In Hungary we need to make a perfect preparation again, a perfect qualifying, because you can be starting in 12th or 13th if you make a little mistake, so we need to approach the race in the same way we did the last couple, try to maximize what we have in Hungary and hopefully bring in some new parts that can help us.

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"At the moment our car seems okay in all areas, there are not weak points, as maybe we had at the beginning of the season when we were suffering a little bit on traction and top speed. Now I think that we are okay on that.

"In Hungary with these slow-speed corners, I don't see any problem with the car. We should be competitive there."

Button returned to form with second place at Hockenheim, and McLaren hope that last weekend's upgrades will make the team even more competitive at a track where Lewis Hamilton won in 2007 and 2009 -- and former drivers Kimi Raikkonen (2005) and Heikki Kovalainen (2008) also triumphed.

"The race pace certainly enabled Jenson to stay in touch with the Red Bull and Ferraris," said managing director Jonathan Neale.

"So on that day, on that circuit, in those conditions we were there or thereabouts. I don't think that we are dominant and we need to continue to work very hard. But we're pleased with it."

Button also won in Budapest for Honda in 2006 for the first victory of his career, after Raikkonen took pole position for McLaren.

"(Last year) I celebrated my 200th grand prix there on the Saturday evening with some of my oldest friends and colleagues in the paddock and I went on to win on Sunday. It was the perfect weekend," the Englishman recalled.

"There's every reason to believe we can get another good result this year. Our pace at Hockenheim gives us cause for encouragement -- it's just that, as always, we'll need to run flawlessly through qualifying and the race if we're to be in the hunt at the end."

De Villota discharged from UK hospital

Red Bull's two-time defending world champion Sebastian Vettel was second in Hungary last year, and is aiming to bounce back from last weekend's disappointment at Hockenheim when he was demoted to fifth for an illegal late overtaking move on Button.

However, the UK-based Austrian team will need to make adjustments after ruling body the FIA deemed Red Bull's engine mapping to change the aerodynamics of the cars and therefore be illegal.

"The track is one of the slowest on the calendar, but as a driver you shouldn't underestimate it as there are a lot of opportunities to make mistakes," the German said.

"It can be very hot and that means the track can be very demanding physically. In addition, the surface has many bumps which shake you around a lot."

Rain is forecast for Friday's practice sessions, but the weather should be hot and sunny for qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday.

"A twisty and slippery circuit will often put more heat through the tire than a fast and flowing layout as the tire is moving around more -- particularly when the ambient temperatures are high," said Paul Hembery, managing director of F1's sole supplier Pirelli.

"Having said that, in Hungary last year we saw some wet weather, so it's important not to make any assumptions. Consequently, we are still lacking some information about the performance of our slick tires under race conditions at the Hungaroring."

Meanwhile, Marussia test driver Maria de Villota has left hospital in her native Spain and will return home to recover from the crash in Britain that cost her an eye.

"The patient's general conditions are good, which allowed us to release her," her website reported on Thursday. "In the last six days, she has been treated by specialists of the plastic and neurological surgery services, and the ophthalmology department, who will continue to follow her as she will need to undergo periodical checks and treatments.

"From a neurological point of view, the patient does not present any deficit and does not need any surgery."

De Villota, one of two women contracted to an F1 team this year, collided with a stationary support truck after completing her first lap at her first test outing for the UK-based Russian marque.