Luca Badoer contended that had he only been able to test for a couple of days ahead of his F1 return in this weekend's European Grand Prix in Valencia, he would not be starting the race from the very back row of the grid.

The Italian has returned to action in place of the injured Felipe Massa, but having not raced for the best part of a decade, nor previously driven the F60 or even so much as set eyes upon the Valencia Street Circuit - not one of the easier tracks on the calendar to get to grips with - it was never going to be a glorious comeback.

That said, languishing three seconds off the pace during practice and qualifying was not where Badoer anticipated finding himself either, and an aborted final lap in Q1 that was on-course to lop six tenths off his fastest previous effort would still only have brought him to within a second of the next-slowest competitor, Scuderia Toro Rosso rookie Jaime Alguersuari.

If it has been a trying weekend so far, then the 38-year-old acknowledged that he is at least getting to closer to the pace the more laps he is able to do - but he is continuing to treat Sunday's grand prix as very much just a glorified test session.

"Obviously, I'm a bit disappointed as it's never nice to be last in any situation," reflected the man from Montebelluna, "but I always knew it would be tough. As I've said before, this weekend is a sort of test for me and the team and that is how we are tackling it.

"However, I do feel the situation is better than yesterday as the more laps I do, the more confidence I gain and the better it gets. Tomorrow it will be important to finish the race, and that will be my target. I feel good physically and I have no problems on that score. For sure, if I'd had two days' testing under my belt, it would have been a different story."

That means Ferrari's entire hopes for points or even better on race day are placed firmly upon the shoulders of Kimi Raikkonen in the sister scarlet machine, and whilst not his personal best qualifying position of the season, the 2007 F1 World Champion professed himself pleased afterwards with his third row grid slot - just over six tenths of a second shy of pole - and in confident mood for the grand prix itself.

"Honestly, this was one of the best qualifying sessions of the season," asserted the Finn, "even if we are not as quick as those on the front row. Our final result will depend basically on how the start goes. It will be very important to make up a few places, because if we end up behind a slower car, then the race is compromised. I think we are reasonably competitive in race trim, as could be seen in Q3, while we are struggling a bit on light tanks. So far it's been a good weekend, and I am happy with the performance of the F60."

Though aware that the Scuderia is unlikely to be able to repeat Massa's 2008 victory around the tight and tortuous streets on race day, team principal Stefano Domenicali did express confidence that a good result could be gained to enable Ferrari to retain its current third spot in the constructors' title chase.

"Sixth place for Kimi Raikkonen can be judged as a positive result," underlined the Italian, "because it probably reflects our current potential. Luca's last place was widely predicted - returning to racing after so much time, furthermore on a track not known to him and one that is difficult to get to grips with, is a daunting task.

"Tomorrow, our race will be divided in two; on one side we will be aiming for a positive result to defend our third place in the constructors' classification, which should be within our ability, while with Luca we will try and finish the race, to obtain sufficient experience to tackle the forthcoming rounds in a different fashion."

"Qualifying had two sides to it for us," echoed the Maranello-based concern's chief race engineer Chris Dyer. "It was a very difficult day for Luca, who continued the process of learning about the car and the track. Lap after lap his confidence increased, but it was not enough to get him off the last place on the grid. The situation was definitely not helped by the red flag in FP3 which cost him valuable time. On the other hand, Kimi performed well, especially in Q3 where he did a great lap. Starting from sixth on the grid is a solid base from which to have a good race tomorrow."