Fernando Alonso admits Ferrari's Singapore GP qualifying underformance 'is nothing new'
Massa, meanwhile, delighted to turn his weekend around
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 21/09/13 5:36pm
Fernando Alonso admitted Ferrari's underwhelming qualifying result in Singapore simply reflected the lack of pace the F138 displayed throughout practice, leaving the Spaniard banking on his usual strong Sunday recovery.
Alonso had gone into Saturday night's qualifying session under the lights at Marina Bay having lapped a second or more lower than the respective pacesetter in each of the three practice sessions.
Although Alonso claimed successive second-place finishes at Spa and Monza, Ferrari had admitted that the acid test of their recent development work would come in Singapore given the higher-downforce conditions demanded by the circuit are more indicative of the rest of the calendar.
However, after setting only the seventh-fastest Q3 time - which was compounded by outgoing team-mate Felipe Massa outqualifing him for the third time in the last five events - Alonso adopted his usual Saturday night mantra after the session.
"We were not competitive in any of the sessions this weekend unfortunately and we were struggling a little bit with the pace compared with our main competitors," he told Sky Sports F1.
"But in a way it's nothing new from some other weekends - qualifying struggling a little bit, Sunday improving things, and in the end getting close to the podium or on the podium.
"So tomorrow we will try to do our good Sunday again, try to score many points and see where our main competitors finish the race."
Although his runner-up finishes at the last two events had seen him re-emerge as Sebastian Vettel's closest challenger in the championship, the German's victories at both events means the Spaniard heads into Sunday's race 53 points back on his perennial rival, and after the Red Bull man's latest pole, facing the prospect of that gap only increasing.
The Spaniard nonetheless traditionally comes to the fore over the longer race distance and suggested there should be opportunities to work himself towards the podium during Sunday's gruelling 61-lap grand prix.
"It's not so clear yesterday after the long runs which tyre is the best for the race, how many stops are coming into the race," Alonso replied when asked about strategy permutations.
"So I think strategy is very open at the moment. We need to concentrate step-by-step, the first is the start, the first corner, the first lap. After that making the tyres stay alive for a little bit longer than our rivals and then we'll see [where they are].
"It's a tricky circuit in a mechanical point of view, in the physical point of view, so we must finish the race, score as many points as possible and then check what the others did."
While history - and championship position - suggests Alonso will emerge as Ferrari's strongest challenger in the race despite being outqualified by Massa for the fifth time in 2013, the Brazilian's performance in beating his team leader to the third row was nonetheless timely as he strives to save his F1 career after being told by his long-time employers last week that his services wouldn't be required for 2014.
Massa had appeared to be particularly all at sea during practice with the handling of his F138 so was delighted to turn things around.
"We changed completely the car from yesterday to today. Practice Three was still not perfect, we changed the car again for qualifying and actually managed to put together a great lap in Q3," he told Sky Sports F1.
"I'm very happy for how I started the weekend and for the qualifying I did. Put a great lap together in Q3 and I hope we can have a great race tomorrow."