Three weeks before the formula one circus congregates in Melbourne for the season opener, Fernando Alonso has reported that his 2008-spec Renault is not in a position to compete for race wins. In fact, the former double world champion is quoted by the Spanish news agency EFE as suggesting that even podium places early this year are not likely.

"Where are we? Quite a long way behind," 26-year-old Alonso said in Barcelona this week for the penultimate test of the winter.

"We are not in a position to do anything about McLaren, Ferrari or BMW.

"Ferrari are favourites but they're not in a different world. We however belong more to the group including Williams and Red Bull," he added.

Interestingly, despite the mixed messages coming out of the BMW Sauber camp recently, Alonso singles out the German team's 2008 car as one of the standouts of the pre-season.

"They are very fast," he said. "They always use full tanks (of fuel) and record very good times."