Ferrari has set to work to fix a problem at the rear of its troubled F2012 car, Italy's Autosprint reports.

The report said initial winter testing highlighted problems with the car's exhaust solution, prompting Pat Fry to order the outlets be moved inwards.

This, however, left the homologated portion of the chassis that housed the original exhausts intact, with modification to require a new FIA crash test.

"I want to understand what is happening, and how many seconds it will take to be fixed," president Luca di Montezemolo is quoted as having said.

Triple world champion Niki Lauda is alarmed.

"I have never heard comments like this from within a team -- this is dramatic," the great Austrian told Blick newspaper.

However, the Swiss newspaper also said some of Ferrari's rivals are making similar modifications to their cars that will require new FIA crash tests.

Even so, "nobody at Maranello expected this", wrote the famous Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Corriere dello Sport, meanwhile, said the fact Ferrari gagged its drivers for the first time ever recently is "more worrying than the testing results".

Test driver Marc Gene told Spanish television Antena 3: "This will be a very long world championship, and we will fight to win.

"At the moment we are not at the level we wanted to be."

It is faintly possible Ferrari is playing an extreme hand of bluff, but Lauda insists that theory is now believed by "only a few".

"They've got a great team," Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told Sky Sports, "they haven't fully shown their hand yet. I think they're more competitive than people believe they are.

"I'm sure the car looks a handful but sometimes a difficult car can be a quick car so it would be foolish to write off Fernando (Alonso) going into Melbourne," he added.