BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (AP) - Formula One leader Fernando Alonso is hoping the monthlong break after the Hungarian Grand Prix will give Ferrari an opportunity to improve its cars for the second half of the season.
Alonso, who has won two of the past three races, said Ferrari's lack of speed at the start of the season had been "a little bit of a surprise, in a bad way."
"Because more time is available for us, we think that we should find some extra performance that at the moment we are missing," the Spaniard said about the weeks off until the Belgian GP on Sept. 2.
Alonso said Ferrari had made good progress after the first four races of the season _ all outside of Europe.
"The biggest improvement that we introduced was in Barcelona. The biggest update was mainly in the aerodynamics of the car," Alonso said, referring to the fifth race on the calendar. "Being a little bit late with the development of the car at the beginning of the season, (I've) been a little bit surprised in a bad way about the performance of the car at the beginning of the season.
"We need time and we need solutions to make the car faster, and to have a longer (rest) period can be only good news for us."
Alonso said his team had managed to cut between two and three seconds off lap times, "but obviously it's a number that cannot be very precise."
Alonso has three wins and 154 points so far this season. He leads Red Bull duo of Mark Webber and two-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel by more than 30 points.
Seven different drivers won the first seven races, but Alonso will be looking for his fourth win of the year at the Hungaroring. Webber is the only other multiple winner so far this season, with victories in Monaco and Silverstone.
Red Bull holds a commanding lead in the constructors' championship despite Vettel being demoted from second place to fifth in the German GP at Hockenheim last week after being penalized 20 seconds for an illegal passing maneuver.
Red Bull has also been embroiled in a technical controversy about its engines, which stewards said last week could give the team additional aerodynamic grip and help reduce wheel spin.
In Hungary, the team will have to revert to a torque setting used earlier in the season. But Vettel downplayed its importance to Red Bull's performance.
"It's not as if the car doesn't work anymore," Vettel said. "I'm quite confident that nothing will change."
Vettel is also confident Red Bull will be able to catch Alonso.
"We still have a lot of races to go," Vettel said. "The season has been unpredictable so far and there's no sign it should be different in the next couple of races."