(CNN) -- Ferrari's hopes of a first world title since 2008 were effectively blown away before this season even started when the legendary Formula One team admitted the 2012 car was not up to speed.
Fernando Alonso shocked motorsport experts by winning the rain-hit Malaysia race in March, but otherwise it has been an uphill battle for the two-time world champion and his Brazilian teammate Felipe Massa.
However, improvements made during this week's test sessions at the Italian marque's Maranello headquarters have given the Spaniard encouragement that he might be more competitive in front of his home fans in the next race at Barcelona next weekend.
"The feeling I have after the test is a positive one," the 30-year-old said on the Ferrari website.
"We have introduced a few small -- and I stress that word -- aerodynamic updates that have produced the response we were expecting and that is the most positive news, which means I am confident for the future, in the short and the long term.
"It means that what we see in the factory in Maranello has now also been confirmed on track. Furthermore, we have worked on other areas, especially the tires, doing short and long runs, on setup and also on starts, given we were also trying out a new clutch."
Alonso finished seventh at the last grand prix in Bahrain, but this week his times have been marginally slower than that of race winner and reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel and Lotus' Romain Grosjean, who earned his first podium in the Middle East event.
Alonso, winner of the 2006 Spanish Grand Prix winner, did go off-track during testing, damaging his car's nose and losing two and a half hours of track time as the crew fixed it.
But he appeared unconcerned with the mishap, saying with a touch of irony: "I want to put everyone's mind at rest, my family and friends: I'm fine, no harm done after hitting the crash barrier at 7 km an hour."
Alonso is fifth in the drivers' championship, 10 points behind Vettel, but remains pragmatic about the importance of the May 13 race.
"Barcelona will be a key moment in the season, but not a decisive one. It's not a case that we will suddenly find ourselves back on pole position, because there is no magic button," he said.
"Certainly, I am not denying that next weekend's event is a significant one -- we cannot allow ourselves to struggle to get into Q3 if we want to fight for the title."