Double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso declared himself 'satisfied' with his grid position for this weekend's inaugural Korean Grand Prix, arguing that he 'showed all the potential of our car', confessing that he is happier to be third than second and asserting that Ferrari will be 'in the fight' for victory in the race.
With nobody truly able to call who out of Ferrari, Red Bull Racing and McLaren-Mercedes would hold the trump card when it came down to the final Q3 shoot-out in qualifying around the all-new Korea International Circuit, Alonso looked to have pulled it out of the bag when he led the way on his first run and subsequently lowered that marker again with his second effort.
That, however, was to count without the habitual F1 2010 Red Bull single-lap steamroller effect, as Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber deposed him within seconds of one another in the session's closing stages – but having already stated his conviction that three podiums over three final three races of the campaign will be enough to clinch the crown and starting as he is on the clean side of the grid with world championship leader Webber on the dirty line in P2, the Spaniard palpably senses a golden opportunity to narrow the gap.
“I am satisfied with how things went in qualifying, and I think I showed all the potential of our car,” reflected the 25-time grand prix-winner. “In Q1, I felt we could be really competitive, which was reinforced in Q2 and Q3. Then, with pole having escaped me, I think that it is better to be third rather than second, because starting from the dirty side would be very difficult.
“We expected Red Bull to be very strong, as it's not by chance that they have taken 14 poles from 17 attempts this year. However, the gap is pretty close, which shows that tomorrow we can be in the fight. We must get a good start without taking too many risks at the first corner, because in the race, anything could happen and the most important thing will be to get to the chequered flag. In theory, there are a couple of places where overtaking seems possible, but we will have to wait until tomorrow to see if that is really the case.
“Tyre-degradation seems higher than at other tracks, so we will need to do a good job in managing them and in terms of the strategy – the softs give more grip while with the hards, we are all struggling to make them work at their best. Maybe it will be a case of doing more than one pit-stop. On top of that, there is the unknown factor linked to the weather, [but] the situation is definitely better than at Suzuka – the gap to the Red Bulls is smaller, and we have kept strong rivals like [Lewis] Hamilton and [Robert] Kubica behind us.”
However, whilst one Ferrari driver was happy, the other emphatically was not. Having matched Alonso blow-for-blow in the earlier two sessions – and even got the better of him at times – come Q3, Felipe Massa's erstwhile pace suddenly evaporated as traffic got in the way, leaving the under-pressure Brazilian three spots and more than eight tenths of a second adrift of his team-mate and with a diminished opportunity to play the supporting role he has been asked and has promised to perform.
“I am not happy, especially because sixth place means I have to start on the less clean side of the grid, which is a major handicap on a surface as dirty as this one,” lamented the frustrated Paulista. “I was very pleased at the end of Q2, because the car was more competitive than yesterday and I thought I could fight for a top place.
“Unfortunately, I had a bit of traffic on the only run I did in Q3 on my last set of new soft tyres – that was a shame, because the car was going well but I was not able to get the most out of it. The situation in terms of grip has improved, even with the harder tyres, and I expect that trend to continue tomorrow. I am expecting to have a very tough race. If it was to rain, it could be even more slippery than usual, given the condition of the track surface.”