Fernando Alonso hints a podium might be beyond him after qualifying sixth in Austin

Spaniard also still feelings the effects of heavy impact in Abu Dhabi

By Mike Wise at the Circuit of The Americas.   Last Updated: 18/11/13 4:31pm

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Fernando Alonso: Says first lap will be 'critical'

Fernando Alonso: Says first lap will be 'critical'

Fernando Alonso hinted that a podium might be beyond him after qualifying sixth for the U.S. GP but stressed that the objective for Ferrari is to fight Mercedes for second place in the Constructors' Championship.

The Spaniard's grid slot came as something of a surprise given the poor weekend the Scuderia have so far experienced. Both Alonso and Felipe Massa were outside the top ten during final practice and although the Brazilian continued to struggle - he qualified 15th - the team leader managed to find more grip.

"The car was working better in qualifying. It's probably the first sessions in the early morning with the cold track when we are not making the tyre work," Alonso said.

"In the afternoons, yesterday and today, things improve a little bit. It was also windy this afternoon so we had to interpret a little bit the wind direction and drive corner-by-corner depending on the wind intensity."

Ferrari currently trail Mercedes by 11 points in the constructors' standings, with Alonso stressing that their rivals had hardly fared better on Saturday.

"Our target is to beat Mercedes in the Constructors' Championship. Today after a difficult weekend, Nico [Rosberg] is 14th, Felipe 15th, [Lewis] Hamilton fifth and I'm sixth. So we are right there tomorrow to fight with them and try to beat them."

Alonso said that getting a good start in the race will be vital and admitted that his cause has not been helped by a slot on the dirty side of the grid.

Infamously, Ferrari incurred a deliberate gearbox penalty for Massa in Austin last year so as to switch his team leader - who was fighting Sebastian Vettel for the world title - to the cleaner side, enabling him to make a better start.

"Our most critical point is the first lap because the tyres are not in temperature then. And then slowly through the run the tyres get the temperature in and we get better and better," Alonso said.

"The start and the first corner will determine our race a little bit. Here, the dirty side is the worst on the calendar and remember last year we had the strategic move to start both drivers on the clean side."

Alonso went on to claim a podium finish 12 months ago and yet questioned about the possibility of a repeat performance, he replied: "I've had more possible podiums, let's say, in the past than this one.

"I'm here racing just to help the team, to get the second in the Constructors' Championship in front of Mercedes and here and in Brazil we have a high chance to do it.

"That's the main point. If it's a podium it's even better but it's not the end of the world."

Alonso also revealed more details of the injuries he suffered when he bounced over the kerbs at the Abu Dhabi GP two weeks ago.

The 32-year-old escaped a penalty when he ran off the track to avoid Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso but was subsequently taken to hospital for precautionary checks.

Alonso is wearing strapping this weekend to help ease the back pain he has been experiencing and also said he had suffered from headaches.

"I had pain yesterday night and this morning when I woke up. But driving with all the adrenalin etcetera is good. Maybe tonight there will still be pain but when you're in the car there's no problem really," he added.

"All week I had a big headache because I think the nerve is compressed and I didn't have blood pressure in my head.

"So I was having a lot of headaches and the nights were very difficult. But slowly the inflammation was becoming normal and I recovered the feelings."

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