A 'step forward' says Alonso
Ferrari star reckons they have found three tenths over a single lap
By Mike Wise at Sepang. Last Updated: 24/03/12 12:01pm
Fernando Alonso: Reckons Ferrari have more qualifying pace
Fernando Alonso reckoned Ferrari have made a step forward with their F2012 car after giving an improved qualifying performance at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
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The double World Champion missed out on a place in the top 10 session last weekend in Melbourne but made it through seven days later at Sepang.
Alonso set the ninth fastest time but will start eighth on the grid after Kimi Raikkonen picked up a five-place penalty for a gearbox change on his Lotus.
Although Alonso salvaged a fifth-place finish in the Australian Grand Prix, he said that the F2012 lacks downforce - a failing sure to be exposed in Sepang's high-speed corners.
However, speaking after qualifying on Saturday, he said that new aerodynamic parts had produced an improvement he estimated to be in the region of three tenths of a second over a single lap.
"It was better. I think we did a step forward in this race - there is no doubt," Alonso said. "The car was feeling a little bit better and again we did some checks Friday, some aero parts that we used in Australia and we wanted a confirmation.
"So we tested here again and some of them were quite positive. We introduced to the car and I think it's a step in the right direction. We were one second off pole position in Q2 when we went out in Australia in Q2 and today we were six tenths and a half.
"This three tenths is quite encouraging for us, a positive sign that we are moving in the right direction.
"We need obviously a triple step of what we did as soon as possible."
But ahead of what is the season's toughest race in terms of tyre degradation, Alonso hinted that Ferrari might still have work to do in that department.
"I mean in Melbourne maybe we had a little bit more degradation than our main competitors. Let's say that we...it's a tough race," he sighed.
Alonso also said both he and team-mate Felipe Massa were struggling with balance this weekend. The Brazilian had similar problems last weekend and will line up 12th on Sunday.
The Spaniard, though, had words of encouragement for his team-mate, who is driving a much-changed car this weekend.
"I think Felipe did a very, very good recovery from yesterday. He had problems with the car and they changed a lot of the car overnight, and this morning again some other changes. So it's never easy to qualify with not a clear reference or baseline," he added.
"With the baggage we have in our hands at the trackside, it's the maximum today again."