Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, the Ferrari drivers, are worried that they will have too many buttons to press on their steering wheels following the latest Formula One rule changes.
Speaking at Ferrari's annual winter retreat in the Italian Dolomites yesterday, the drivers addressed the admission of adjustable rear wings, the return of the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) power-boost system, plus the switch to Pirelli tires for this season, all combined with extensive testing limits.
"Without realising it, we're losing the focus on driving," Alonso said, adding that "the cars become tougher to drive when you have to make all these changes from one turn to the next".
The rear wings are perhaps the biggest novelty. While designed to facilitate more passing and appease fans, nobody is quite sure what effect they will have. Drivers will be able to adjust the wings from the cockpit once they are two laps into a race, but the system's availability will be electronically controlled and it will be activated only when a driver is less than one second behind another at predetermined points on the track, then deactivated once the driver brakes.
"If you make the wrong choice and you have three cars behind you, you could fall from first to fourth in an instant," Massa said. "We have so many things to do on the steering wheel but we still need to drive the car. We can do it, but from a driver's point of view it's not fantastic. On every [turn] there are three or four buttons to press. It's definitely a little too much."
The switch from Bridgestone to Pirelli as the sole tyre supplier could represent an even larger challenge. "The tyres are essentially the biggest change for 2011 because that alters our style of driving," Alonso said. "Everyone has the same brand so people talk about it less, but you have to adapt very quickly."
If it does not rain during one of the 15 days of pre-season testing in Spain next month or in Bahrain in early March, teams could enter the third race of the season in Malaysia using untested wet tyres.
"Entering a grand prix with completely unknown tyres would be very difficult for the teams," Alonso said.
Alonso entered the final race of 2010, in Abu Dhabi, leading the standings only to lose the title to Red Bull-Renault's Sebastian Vettel after a series of strategic errors by Ferrari.
While nearly all Ferrari officials have acknowledged that the Red Bull cars were the fastest last season, Alonso surprisingly named Michael Schumacher as his most "dangerous" rival for 2011.
Having won five titles with Ferrari, Schumacher came out of retirement last season but struggled to a ninth-place finish with Mercedes.
"With five world champions on the track next season, if you ask me one name in January I've got to say Michael because he's a seven-time world champion and he's got nothing to prove," Alonso said.
"It was a difficult season for him in 2010 with new cars, a new style of driving and everything completely new in F1. But he's still a champion and if the car is right he will be the contender that we will fear."
Alonso also said he expected a tough challenge from Red Bull and McLaren. "But hopefully our car will be fastest and my toughest rival is Felipe," he added.