Melbourne: A posting on the Ferrari Twitter feed at the end of qualifying on Saturday for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix said it all: "12th and 16th: not really a good start of the season..."

There had been strong hints in pre-season testing that all was not well at Formula One's most successful team but few would have predicted that neither Fernando Alonso nor Felipe Massa would be on the track when the final 10 places on the grid were being decided.

Alonso finished 12th after spinning off into the gravel in the second qualifying session, while Brazilian Massa will start on the eighth row on Sunday after being knocked out in the second round and qualified 16th.

"We can only be disappointed after this qualifying session," said team boss Stefano Domenicali.

"It hurts to have neither driver on track for the final part of the session, even if we know that Fernando had every chance of getting at least this far if he had not got caught up in one of those incidents that are part of the game.

"I understand that at the moment our fans are disappointed but I would urge them to be cautious before making any definitive judgement," he said. "We need to remain calm and concentrated."

Twice world champion Alonso, who had set the fifth fastest time of the second session when he spun off, was unhappy that the marshals had not pushed him out of the gravel.

The Spaniard nevertheless conceded that he would not have been able to compete for a spot in the front few rows of the grid even if he had got through to the final shootout.

"Today, we lacked performance, especially because we did not have enough aerodynamic downforce and we are still lacking in top speed," he said.

"Tomorrow we will be racing defensively and will try and do what we can... There's no point getting angry as it does not serve any purpose."

Massa, already on notice that he is driving for his place in the team this season after failing to get on the podium last year, said the car felt worse than in winter testing.

"The balance of the car was never what I wanted and I never managed to get a clean lap," he said.

"I was always lacking grip...and I suffered with oversteer on entry and understeer on exit.

"Clearly we are behind, maybe more than we had expected and there are other teams that have improved a lot compared to last year," he added.

(Agencies)