Fernando Alonso said he was not surprised by the pace of title rival Sebastian Vettel in Austin on Friday
Ferrari driver over seven tenths down - but talking up race prospects as usual
By Mike Wise in Austin. Last Updated: 17/11/12 10:56am
It was business as usual for a relaxed Fernando Alonso after opening practice for the U.S. Grand Prix - both on and off the new Circuit of The Americas.
The Ferrari driver wound up third fastest overall behind the Red Bulls of title rival Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. Although Alonso was just 0.008 seconds slower than the Australian, there was rather more daylight between the Spaniard and Vettel, who holds a 10-point lead over him in the Drivers' Championship and could possibly clinch it this weekend.
Speaking afterwards, Alonso said he was not surprised by Vettel's pace. As has become his mantra, though, the 31-year-old also talked up the prospect of a better performance from Ferrari in the race itself.
"Two Red Bulls, first and second in a free practice session, like at the last four or five races. No surprises: they're the quickest out there," Alonso said.
"They have the fastest package, they do first and second in all the practice, they do first and second in all qualifyings; if everything goes normal then first and second in the race.
"But in the race sometimes everything is not going normal. We put more pressure on them on Sundays, we will take our opportunities. We will fight every lap in the race.
"We know the strong points of them, we keep repeating this every race: the speed of the package. They are very quick and our strong points of a united team, the driveability of our car.
"We try to use, each of us, our strong points. I think the important thing is to score 11 points more than them in these two races.
"We're still convinced that we can do it. We are not surprised that they are first and second in practice and qualifying."
Alonso also gave a favourable report on Ferrari's latest updates but stressed that their rivals will have been hard at work as well.
"I think, yes, the updates seem to work. We're still analysing the data from today but the first impression is that it's going good," he said.
"I'm happy but obviously if we introduce a little step in every race then they'll do the same and we keep the gap more or less consistent."
Having started seventh on the grid at the last race in Abu Dhabi, Alonso admitted that a repeat of Friday's result in qualifying "would be fantastic".
He finished second in the Middle East a fortnight ago, one place ahead of Vettel - the defending Champion albeit starting the race from the pitlane.
Alonso added: "We've been third on many Fridays and then on Saturday, McLaren and Lotus et cetera, they seem to use the potential as well - maybe on Friday they hide something.
"It's possible that we'll have a tough qualifying but we were seventh and ninth in Abu Dhabi and we scored three points more than Vettel.
"If we are better than seventh then I think we're going to score even more points than him."