- Ferrari is playing catch up, admits the team's technical director
- The 2014 Formula One season began on Sunday with the Australian Grand Prix
- Ferrari's Fernando Alonso finished in fourth position in Melbourne
- Alonso benefited from the disqualification of Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo
The 2014 Formula One season may have only just got going, but Ferrari is already playing catch up.
That's the view of technical director James Allison, who admits the legendary Italian marque is some way behind early pacesetters Mercedes, labeling Ferrari's performance in Sunday's opening race as "unacceptable."
While Mercedes enjoyed a fruitful preseason and took the checkered flag at Sunday's Australian Grand Prix through Nico Rosberg, Ferrari struggled by comparison.
Double world champion Fernando Alonso was the team's highest-placed driver in fourth position, but the Spaniard finished over 30 seconds behind the victorious Rosberg.
"While we can take some satisfaction from the reliability shown by the F14T, it is clear that we have our work cut out to improve our car in order to compete on equal terms with the Mercedes team," Allen told the team's official website.
Alonso finished Sunday's race in fifth position, but he was elevated to fourth place after Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo -- who crossed the line in second -- was disqualified for breaching fuel flow regulations.
Finland's Kimi Raikkonen, who is starting his second spell as a Ferrari driver after winning the team's last drivers' championship in 2007, finished seventh.
Like every team on the grid, Ferrari has had to contend with a raft of regulation changes introduced by the sport's rule makers for the 2014 season -- including the introduction of 1.6-liter V6 hybrid engines.
Allison says his team is still coming to terms with the new rules, but he's backed Ferrari to come back stronger than ever.
"With all the new regulations this year, the opportunities to improve the car are legion and we can expect the race to improve the cars to be even more intense than normal," he added.
"Our competitiveness was not acceptable in Melbourne, but we intend to fight our way back up the grid with the improvements that we will bring to the car."
Meanwhile the FIA, the body which governs F1, has announced its satisfaction with the fuel-flow meter which prompted Ricciardo's disqualification from the Melbourne race.
Ricciardo was disqualified post-race after it was discovered his car had exceeded the maximum fuel-flow rate of 100kg/hour.
Allowing fuel to flow faster than permitted rate would give the driver an unfair power advantage over his competitors.
The meter's manufacturers Gil Sensors have received "positive feedback" from the FIA. If Red Bull wishes to appeal the punishment, it must do so by midday on Thursday.
Ricciardo will be back on the track for the Malaysian Grand Prix on March 30.