Fernando Alonso says he is hopeful that Ferrari will be able to challenge Red Bull for pole in the Hungarian Grand Prix following Friday practice at the Hungaroring.

Returning to action for the first time since his controversial victory last weekend in Germany, Alonso posted the second quickest time during the first two practice sessions behind Sebastian Vettel.

Despite a gap of half a second to the German in front, Alonso said he was hopeful of being closer to the pace on Saturday as he refused to put too much importance on the Friday times.

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"I hope we can stay close to our main rivals, who seemed very strong today and be able to fight them in Q3 tomorrow afternoon," he said. "For now, we are still a bit behind by a few tenths, even if we won't know the truth until qualifying. We certainly need to work on the set-up of the car to improve its performance, especially in the second and third sectors.

"Compared to Hockenheim, where the car was well balanced, here we are suffering with a bit too much understeer, but all the same it feels pretty good. We did various aerodynamic tests and, in the end, it seems the car is more competitive without the blown rear wing. Overall, we are happy with how things went today, even if we are well aware that one cannot rely much on Friday's times.

"As for McLaren, whom one should not forget lead both championships, we seem to have the upper hand, but so often we have seen them struggle on a Friday before then being very competitive. Tomorrow afternoon, it will be very important to secure a place in the top three because it would be hard to fight for the win starting further back."

Team-mate Felipe Massa was fourth quickest as he returned to the scene of his huge accident last year, with the Brazilian insisting that that incident hadn't altered his approach.

"Returning to driving at this track was not difficult for me: when you are in the car and you shut the visor, you only think about going quickly," he said. "It was definitely good yesterday to go to the medical centre and meet the people who took care of me immediately after the accident, and it was equally emotional to have dinner with the surgeon who operated on me at Budapest's AEK hospital.

"I wish to take this opportunity to once again thank everyone for what they did for me one year ago; they are really extraordinary people."