The wheels appear to be falling off the truck load of high hopes that Fernando Alonso carried with him as the winter testing ended in his Spanish homeland this Formula One season.
After an up-the-track performance at Australia -- a fourth-place finish, more than 31 seconds behind Red Bull winner Sebastian Vettel -- and another poor qualifying effort Saturday at the Malaysian Grand Prix, Alonso lashed out at his Ferrari team.
Simply, he said, the prancing pony car this season is a slug.
"The car is not quick enough," Alonso said at the Sepang circuit after he qualified fifth, almost a full second behind pole sitter Vettel.
While team engineers tried to blame the tires for the slow times, Alonso was quick to correct them.
"The tires are the same for everybody so I don't think the tires are a problem," he said.
What is the problem, according to the two-time world champion, is that Ferrari has fallen behind in the aerodynamic-engineering department.
"These days aerodynamics are 90 per cent of the performance of the car, so I think that's one area that we need to analyze better," Alonso said.
"So that's something where (Red Bull) maybe did a better job than us at the moment."
To make matters seem even more glum for the Italian team, Alonso said he doesn't see improvements coming soon enough to make a difference in Sunday's race or next week's race in China.
"Unfortunately, we weren't quick enough in Australia, not quick enough (at Sepang) to fight for pole," he said.
"And China is in five days' time -- so I expect a difficult race as well."
Alonso said he will concentrate on just getting as many world-championship points as possible while waiting for the needed improvements to come from the Ferrari factory.
But, he said, that he hasn't completely given up on fighting for a third championship this season in spite of his slow start.
"I'm very optimistic for the championship chances," Alonso said.
"I think this is a long championship with many races and anything can happen.
"Last year we struggled in some races, like in Turkey when I was out of Q3, and then one week later I was fighting for pole position in Monaco."
Never one to mince words when it comes to team performance, Alonso said that Ferrari can't ignore that there are still some serious issues with the team that has won more than half the world championships in the past 11 seasons.
"There is no secret we need to improve," he said.
"We must improve in the next coming races because we are not quick enough at the moment. But also we have to remain very calm, very focused because the championship is very long."
POWER ON POLE
For the second time in as many races Australia's Will Power will start on the pole in the IZOD IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday in the No. 12 Penske Racing Dallara Honda.
Power topped the time charts with a lap of one minute, 11.455 seconds at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham in the final qualifying session Saturday.
Power just managed to beat his Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe who lapped the course in 1:11.736.
Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon will start third Sunday on a time of 1:11.883.
"It was very tight," Power said. "I saved it for the end. I thought we should have won last year, so we're going to be pretty focused on the strategy (for the race)."
Dario Franchitti, who won the first IndyCar race of the season two weeks ago at St. Petersburg, failed to make it into the Fast Six.
He'll start seventh, alongside Canadian James Hinchcliffe, who had an outstanding lap of 1:11.818, in the first qualifying effort for Newman Haas racing.
Hinchcliffe had learned earlier this week -- after missing the race in St. Petersburg -- that enough sponsorship had come through to put him on the grid in Alabama.
The only other Canadian in the race, Montreal's Alex Tagliani will start 12th, in the No. 77 Sam Schmidt Motorsports machine on a lap of 1:12.348.