Fernando Alonso is hoping that he can convert his self-confessed 'best qualifying of the year' into a potential race-winning position by getting among the Red Bull cars in Sunday's British Grand Prix.
Although the double world champion qualified on the front row of the grid in last month's Canadian round, he believes his close third place at Silverstone represents a better all-round performance from Ferrari - which also has Felipe Massa on row two - and will be looking for the sort of rapid start made by both drivers to at least split poleman Mark Webber and Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel on the opening lap
"We have been more or less, on average, one second or seven-tenths [behind them] in the last couple of races, and here in Silverstone, on a circuit that normally is not our preference in terms of lay-out and characteristics, with these high speed corners, being one-tenth off the pole is good news for us," Alonso reasoned, "The new parts we brought here are working well and [I'm] pleased with qualifying, but the job is tomorrow when the points are given. Hopefully, we can still perform well, be close to these guys and put some pressure to be on the podium in the end.
"I think we are definitely closer than ever. In Turkey, where we finished third, we fought with Mark until the end [and, in the] last race, we finished second, also fighting with the Red Bulls. As I said, having been seven or eight tenths off the pace in qualifying, today we are a little bit quicker, [and] I'm sure that, tomorrow, we can put some more pressure on them."
The Spaniard was quick to praise his team for its work in bringing positive upgrades to the car for the British round, but also admitted that it was rare for so many changes to work in harmony out of the box.
"This is completely new for us this year, and a little bit of a good surprise because you normally bring new parts to the races, you always test them on Fridays and then you see which ones are working and which ones need more time before you put them on the car," he noted, "But it seems that, this weekend, everything we put on the car worked okay and we've got some downforce back.
He was equally quick to deny, as some had suggested, that Ferrari had been helped most by the row over engine and diffuser rules that rumbled on through free practice, and was only settled by an emergency meeting of the sport's Technical Working Group ahead of qualifying. The Scuderia's V8 was hardly mentioned in the discussions, with all attention resting on concessions made to the rival engines from Renault and Mercedes. Alonso, however, maintained the well-worn line that each of the twelve competing teams would have been hampered by the ever-changing directives from the FIA, and Ferrari would hardly have closed what was a sizeable gap to Red Bull purely by the British team being penalised.
"It's a difficult question to answer, [as] I'm not a technician, but I guess [closing the gap is] just because of the new parts that we have on the car," he claimed, "About the exhaust and diffuser and all his talk, we repeat a hundred times that we all lose performance with the new rules - and we all lose more or less the same performance, maybe from three tenths to five tenths. I don't think that one team can lose 1.5secs, one team can lose a tenth. This is not possible, so I guess, because we are third and fourth [on the grid], [it] means that the whole team did a very good job bringing the new parts here. We are more competitive, [but] not because of 'the thing'."
Having lined up on row two behind the Red Bull drivers for his home race in Barcelona, Alonso made a lightning start to seize the lead on the long run to turn one, but saw his hopes of a podium finish disappear as he struggled to keep life in his tyres. Asked whether he feared a repeat at Silverstone, with Pirelli bringing similar hard and soft compounds, the Spaniard admitted that the largely wet running throughout practice meant that it was hard to predict how the tyres would fare.
"That's something we need to find out tomorrow," he acknowledged, "Obviously, we haven't had enough laps in dry conditions - yesterday none and, today, only I think five or six laps - so [there is] no real reference at the moment. But what we felt in free practice three and first qualifying was a very good feeling with hard tyres this weekend, so we are quite confident that, tomorrow, we will not have the problems that we had in Barcelona, where we lost a complete lap in the last forty laps of the race. Maybe we still prefer the soft tyres but, with the hard, fingers crossed that we have no problems tomorrow."