Fernando Alonso insists that Ferrari will not be disappointed if it fails to claim either pole position or a race win in the European Grand Prix, despite admitting that the Scuderia had been a contender in both Monaco and Canada.

The Spaniard ended the opening day of the Valencia meeting on top of the timesheets, but had already stressed that he did not expect Ferrari to be a frontrunner, and explained that the team was again looking to later in the season to achieve its first win of 2011. Even though there are suggestions that the impending bans on engine map changes and blown diffusers may help to rein in the rampant Red Bull team, Alonso is not so sure, and expects to be chasing the blue machines again this weekend.

"I don't think it will massively change qualifying," he opined, "I think Sebastian was quickest in qualifying, [although] it's true that it wasn't one second, it was two tenths, but he was the quickest in wet conditions at the start of the race. We were following him and he was nearly eight tenths or nine tenths quicker than us on Sunday with race mapping.

"We saw a superior car at that moment, a dominant car in qualifying and in the race as well. It seems that, sometimes, they push a little bit more, sometimes a little bit less. Because of that, in races you seem a little bit closer. We are not desperate to get pole here or to win this race. We need to know where we are at the moment, we need to keep working in the direction we took two races ago. It seems that we are more competitive, but we cannot under-estimate or forget how quick our opponents are."

McLaren is the only team to have taken advantage of slip-ups at Red Bull Racing, with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button claiming a win apiece, but Alonso insists that he wasn't far away from the top step in either Monaco or Canada, despite being forced to retire from the latter.

"At the moment, it is difficult to win a race," he conceded, "but there is no doubt that, in Monaco and Canada, we had the opportunity to win the race - that's a fact, not a dream.

"We were very close. We were on the first row of the grid after qualifying in Canada and we were 10cm from winning in Monaco, so it is true that, in the last two races, the trend is quite good. We improved and we seemed to be more competitive. The characteristics of the [Valencia] circuit are a little bit similar to Canada and Monaco, so maybe here is another good opportunity, but we also cannot forget we are sometimes one second behind in qualifying and, with this, it is difficult to win.

"You need to be competitive, you need to be lucky and, where there are safety car periods, you need to be in the right place at the right moment. That happened in Canada with all the rain, all the red flags, so, [with] all the crazy races, you need a little bit of luck and I think, last year, we missed a little of that. Hopefully, this year, we can be competitive. That's the most important thing. Trying to get this podium here in Valencia is important for us, important for me as well, and hopefully we can make a good show for all the fans on Sunday."

For all the local support that he gets from the fans in Valencia, Alonso's results in the three races held there have not been good, with the Spaniard yet to finish in the top five, but he insists that he can still challenge for the championship, especially if the Ferrari continues to improve from this weekend on.

"In 2008, I had accident first lap with [Kazuki] Nakajima; in 2009, [I finished] sixth; and, in 2010, [there was the] safety car period, [and] safety car line one," he said, referring to the controversial incident that left him stuck behind the pace car and out of contention for a good result.

"We need to understand that in some places, in some races we cannot [win]. I think we need to have the best car. If we have the best car, we can win the title because there is plenty of time and plenty of races to recover. If we are fifth or sixth, as we are normally in qualifying etc, it's very difficult because you cannot get the pace that everybody is doing.

"But I think the championship is long. We need to concentrate, race by race. We will try to be on the podium, we will try to win every race we do. Obviously this is sometimes very difficult or impossible but this is our aim. We are Ferrari, we are obliged to win every race but in some other ways, I think we need to understand and respect our rivals and to work harder than them and to close that gap in the near future."