Sakhir, Bahrain: World Championship leaders Ferrari-Marlboro realise the threat being posed by McLaren as the season takes a short break before the next race in Barcelona on May 11-13.
"We need to push very hard as McLaren are very strong. We need to keep working like that and after three races there is no better way to finish before we take this short break," Ferrari's Brazilian driver Felipe Massa said after winning the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team currently has a narrow five-point lead over the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro at the end of the first three races on the 2007 calendar.
The McLaren pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso have put up 44 points in the constructors' championship compared to the 39 points together from Massa and Kimi Raikkonen for the Ferrari outfit.
BMW Sauber is the surprising third-placed team with 18 points, while defending world champions ING Renault are in fourth with nine points, thanks mainly to three steady performances from Nick Heidfeld.
But given the close tussle at the top of the standings, the Ferraris realise the tough job they have at hand beginning with the European round of the championship in the first half of next month.
Not losing opportunity
"Looking at the championship, Ferrari and McLaren are so close together. We need to use the break to work very hard and it is important not to lose any opportunity," Massa said.
The key, Massa felt, lies in both Ferraris putting up a friendly competition against each other during the course of the championship.
"Every result is important for me and for the team. We need to push each other hard and that can only mean that the two red cars will end at the top of the standings at each race. We create a healthy rivalry between us and that will lead to both of us being at the top of the standings by the end of the season," he said.
"I think we should keep it going the way we are presently doing."
However, the McLarens are in no mood to give up so easily.
"We have definitely closed the gap with Ferrari and I know everybody will continue to push harder to improve even more in time for the Spanish Grand Prix," Hamilton said.
Keeping up with Ferrari
"I couldn't keep up with the Ferraris and Lewis and in the end had to settle for fifth. I was close to Heidfeld in the end, but there was nothing I could do," Alonso said.
"We now look forward to the next couple of weeks where we will all work hard to further improve the car in time for my home grand prix in Barcelona," the Spaniard added.
The top two teams will have to be keep a close watch on the smaller teams, including BMW-Sauber and defending world champions ING Renault who occupy third and fourth places on the constructors' championship.