Fernando Alonso has said it will be 'very difficult' for the Scuderia to win in Italy tomorrow, although after having qualified fourth, he believes a podium on home ground is a 'realistic target'.

Alonso, who had only been eighth in final practice this morning in his Ferrari, ran well throughout qualifying, posting the fourth best time in Q1 and the fifth best in Q2. In the end his best lap in the top-ten shoot-out was a 1 minute 22.841 seconds, which left him only around a tenth off the two McLarens ahead.

"Fourth place is possibly my most common result in qualifying this season, so I definitely cannot be surprised at this performance. Usually, in the race we go better than in qualifying, therefore this grid position could provide the basis for a podium finish, which is our realistic target for tomorrow afternoon," Alonso said.

"Fighting for the win? I think it will be very difficult, even if this year's races have often thrown up surprises. I will try to make up some places at the start, which could make the race even more interesting.

"It was not easy to find the right balance on the car this weekend. We made a lot of changes to the set-up after each session and again this morning we were not satisfied. Then unexpectedly, in qualifying, the car improved and was more stable under braking and easier to drive, to the extent that we were always in the top four or five positions in each session.

"Clearly the higher temperatures helped, otherwise we would not be just a few hundredths off the McLarens, after being over two seconds away in Spa qualifying. We hope it will be equally hot tomorrow: it would be great to get a result to delight all our fans who will be in the grandstands."

Team-mate Felipe Massa meanwhile, who had been third in final practice, had to settle for sixth on the grid. His best lap in Q3 was a 1 minute 23.888 seconds, which left him just over a second slower than Alonso.

"All things considered, it was a good qualifying, though definitely not an easy one, because we knew there were some very quick cars out there. The result is pretty much in line with our expectations going into the session," Massa added. "We worked well, trying to fine tune the car in one session after the next.

"In Q3, on my final run, I had got a good tow behind Michael [Schumacher], but then, I pushed a bit too much and lost precious time at the second chicane and the Lesmo corner. Maybe I could have been one or two places further up, but definitely nothing more than that.

"Tomorrow, I expect the race will be very close and difficult and rear tyre degradation will be one of the key factors. As usual, strategy will be decisive and I hope I can do well. This is a very important event for Ferrari and we are keen to give our fans something to cheer about. The target? A place on the podium, but I know it will be very difficult."