Fernando Alonso has revealed that he is 'convinced that a podium finish is within our reach' after driving at '120 per cent' and producing what he described as his 'best Q3 lap of the whole year' in qualifying for this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix.
Alonso has never missed the podium in the three Singapore Grands Prix to-date, controversially triumphing in the inaugural outing back in 2008 – a result that led to the explosive 'Crashgate' scandal – battling to third place the following campaign and then holding off the faster Red Bull Racing of Sebastian Vettel en route
to a second victory in the Far-Eastern city-state last season.
Twelve months on, the Spaniard will begin the race around the Marina Bay street circuit from fifth place, a scant tenth-and-a-half shy of the front row – and whilst he admits that was the maximum he could have extracted from the floodlit session, he does remain optimistic about his chances of making up ground to keep his Singapore rostrum run going come race day.
“I am pleased with this qualifying, because I think that might have been my best Q3 lap of the whole year,” the 30-year-old remarked. “I gave it 120 per cent, taking risks in some corners, but that was the only way I could hope to fight for the top places. If I'd driven a normal lap, I would have finished in the same position, but half a second off the two McLarens, rather than less than a tenth.
“Sure, if I was in front of [Lewis] Hamilton and [Jenson] Button, then it would be a completely different story, but that's how it turned out and there's no point saying we were unlucky. I am convinced that a podium finish is within our reach. Usually, we go better in the race than in qualifying – and there is no reason why that should not be the case here.
“We will try and make up some places at the start, even if, at this track, there is not much of a run from the start-line to the first corner. Then we will try and make the most of our strategy and any eventual tyre degradation levels lower than that of some our opponents. This is a very hard race for the mechanical parts of the car, and the safety car is usually involved; we will see what happens, but, I say it again, I am confident in our chances of getting to the podium.”
Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa will similarly begin the grand prix from the third row of the grid, but the Brazilian endured a more complicated time of things after needing to abort his first 'flying' effort in Q2 due to Kamui Kobayashi's accident and finding Hamilton attempting to aggressively muscle his way past on his Q3 warm-up lap. He wound up almost a second adrift of Alonso in the sister F150º Italia.
“Sixth is definitely not the result we were aiming for,” the 30-year-old rued, “but we have to accept it. Now we must think about the race, which definitely does not look like being an easy one – tyre degradation is significant, both on the soft and the supersoft, and we will have to be able to adapt to that as best we can. I think that, as never before, getting the strategy right will be the key to having a good race.
“We are definitely more competitive here than we were at Monza. It was not easy putting together a perfect lap and – even if the car was much improved compared to the last free practice session – I still had a lot of oversteer, especially when the rear tyres were overheating in the second and third sectors. With Hamilton, honestly, I don't understand why he wanted to pass at all costs; we were all in a line on our 'out' lap, and there was nothing to be gained from acting like that.”