Conceding that qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix had been a case of damage limitation, Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali was nonetheless somewhat more upbeat than he might have been considering the storm of criticism that has been heaped on the squad over the last week.

"We should regard this result as a glass half full. We know that we are in difficulty in this early part of the season," he said. " All of us and our fans would like to see our drivers always in the fight for pole position, but if we do not have the potential to do so, then we have to do the best we can."

Under those circumstances, a ninth position in qualifying for Fernando Alonso (that should translate to eighth on the grid after Kimi Raikkonen's gearbox change penalty is applied) was a decent showing, especially considering the former world champion was suffering with a KERS issue, the first the team have experienced in a while.

"I had a KERS problem on my only run in Q3, but I don't think it cost me any places, but it would definitely have made the gap to pole look more realistic," said Alonso afterwards. "It was a good qualifying, because I think we got everything we could out of the car.

"At the moment, this car has many problems, but as a result, it also has a big margin for improvement," he added, finding the silver lining in the gloomy clouds that have been gathering over Maranello in recent weeks. Alonso also denied rumours that the team were set to write-off the F2012 and introduce a substantially new car for the European leg of the season.

"A new car in Barcelona? No, there's no truth in that," he stated flatly. "Clearly we are pushing a lot on car development, which is as it should be, but in a consistent fashion with no revolutionary changes.

His team mate Felipe Massa has been most in the cross-hairs of the Tifosi frustrated with Ferrari's poor start to the 2012 season. Massa insisted that it didn't unduly add to the stress of the job for him. "Pressure? It comes from own will to always do the maximum," he said. "When I don't manage it, I am the first to be unhappy."

Massa once again struggled to avoid elimination in Q1, but then had a reasonable Q2 to put the car in 12th place on the grid. "We know that, at the moment, we do not have a very competitive car: getting through to Q3 is very difficult and today I could only get close to this target," he admitted.

More importantly he was encouraged by the progress that he felt he had made over the last two days at Sepang, with the balance of the car much more to his liking in qualifying after a problematic time in the three free practice sessions.

"We managed to improve it for qualifying, which leaves me feeling confident for the race and for the future," he said. "I think we have begun to get a better understanding of how this F2012 works and that is positive."

"Felipe has made a step in the right direction," stated Domenicali confidently. "Finally the car he had in qualifying was reasonably balanced and that could also be seen on the clock."

"Felipe finally had a better balanced car and made good progress compared to the previous sessions," agree technical director Pat Fry. "Honestly it's hard to see how we could have secured a different result to this one, given the potential available to us."

When it comes to race day, Fry was keeping half an eye on the sky at all times, with the weather in Malaysia so unpredictable and capable of such extremes when it puts its mind to it.

"There's the unknown factor relating to the weather," he acknowledged. "So far, the rain has only put in a brief appearance in FP3, but we are well aware that storms can arrive at any moment: we have to ensure we are ready to exploit every opportunity that might present itself."

"We saw in Melbourne that over a long distance the difference between the front runners is less marked than in qualifying," said Domenicali, turning his thoughts away from Saturday's qualifying and towards Sunday's race. "Let's see how tomorrow goes in a race that looks like being very tough on the cars, drivers and teams, who have to operate here in rather unique conditions."