Fernando Alonso has admitted that his ninth place on the grid in China more or less corresponds to Ferrari's current potential.

Alonso won last time out in Malaysia, a result that lifted him into the lead in the drivers' championship. However, he knows he is going to need more help from the elements on Sunday if he is to repeat that feat.

Speaking after qualifying, the Spaniard added that the whole team will need to 'operate perfectly' if they are to score well at the Shanghai International Circuit tomorrow.

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"We knew this would be a difficult qualifying and that's how it turned out. We managed to get into Q3, staying ahead of [Sebastian] Vettel by a few thousandths. Then, from Q2 to Q3, the wind changed direction and that was penalising," Alonso said.

"The car is what it is and the improvements we brought here are not sufficient to produce a jump in performance and so this position corresponds more or less to our current potential. Sure, we cannot be happy to be a second off pole position, but all we can do is work to try and close this gap. If we do enough of a good job then we can think about winning, otherwise not.

"But I remain optimistic: even in 2010, we were significantly behind the best, but all the same, we got to the final race leading the World Championship.

"The starting grid is very exciting and curious, with two Mercedes, one Sauber and a Lotus in front of the rest. We cannot permit ourselves to make any mistakes because we certainly don't have the best car: if we manage to operate perfectly, as we did in Australia and Malaysia, then we can think about bringing home valuable points."

Team-mate Felipe Massa meanwhile qualified 12th in the sister car and given he had only been 18th in final practice, he was somewhat encouraged.

"On the one hand I am obviously unhappy not to have made it through to Q3 but, on the other, I have to be pleased with my position if I consider where we were this morning at the end of FP3," he reflected. "In the afternoon, the situation improved, the car had much more grip and I managed to be more competitive, but I couldn't say exactly why. Probably the track conditions changed in a way that suited us.

"We hope to continue like this tomorrow afternoon and to bring home a good result: it's really needed right now!

"I so much want a normal race, a calm one in which I manage to do my job well and pick up some points. I still don't have any and the moment has come to remove this zero from the classification."