|© AP Photo/Luca Bruno
It turned out Fernando Alonso was right to tell his local fans that he had little chance to repeat as winner at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Alonso started Sunday's race from seventh and only moved up one spot through 66 laps, and that at the expense of struggling Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen.
Alonso had earned a promising third-place finish at the previous Chinese GP just before Marco Mattiacci arrived to replace team boss Stefano Domenicali following his resignation.
But as Alonso had warned, he finished almost a minute behind race winner Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit.
"Of course I'd have liked to have done better here in my home race, but I knew right from the start that it would be difficult," Alonso said. "Our pace was too slow compared to the leaders and, on top of that, not making up any places at the start didn't help. The gap to the best is nothing new and today's result confirms the fact our rivals are strong on both the performance and the reliability fronts."
The once proud Italian team has now gone longer than a year without winning a Grand Prix, its longest dry spell in nearly two decades.
Raikkonen fared even worse than Alonso, being lapped by Hamilton and fellow Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg on the last lap as they cruised to a fourth straight one-two finish and increased their dominance of the season.
Raikkonen returned this season to the team he won the title with in 2007 after a strong year with Lotus in 2013. But the Finn has disappointed by not managing a finish higher than seventh through five races.
"We cannot be happy with sixth and seventh places, because we are a long way off where we want to be," Raikkonen said.
Alonso tried a three-stop strategy, while Raikkonen opted for just two. But the result was the same: another frustrating race for Ferrari fans.
"The gap to the leaders is certainly not a surprise and will not discourage us as we tackle the work we must do to improve our car," said Ferrari technical director Pat Fry. "Now we will try and make the most of the two test days this coming week here in Montmelo ... The aim is to give our drivers a more competitive package."
Ferrari is in third place in the constructors championship race with 66 points. Mercedes leads with 197, followed by Red Bull with 84.