There were no surprises for Ferrari
- either good or bad - in qualifying on Saturday at the Bahrain International Circuit
"Today, we were worth a place somewhere between eighth and twelfth, so ninth on the grid fits in with our current level," admitted Fernando Alonso. "Honestly, given the characteristics of this track, which are definitely not suited to our current car, so far the weekend has not in fact gone that badly."
To make it into Q3, Alonso was forced to use all three sets of his soft option tyres meaning that he had nothing fresh left for the final session - so he ended up not setting a representative flying lap in the top ten shootout.
"Doing a time on used tyres would have made no sense and would have forced us to start with a set of tyres that already had a few laps on them," he explained. "Now we are free to choose either the Medium or the Soft for the start of a race that looks like being very hard, especially on tyres.
Alonso had also been required to go out early in Q1 on soft tyres and set a good enough time not to need another run, leading to some nail-biting final minutes as driver after driver improved their times on a track getting less dusty by the minute and leapt up the standings, forcing Alonso ever closer to the drop zone.
"It was a bit risky, but it worked," said the team's technical director Pat Fry. "Fernando managed to get through to Q3, but had to also use the last set of Softs available, because the track was improving significantly with each passing minute."
His team mate Felipe Massa
was back in 14th place on the grid for Sunday's race, which he described as "not exactly a brilliant position" although it did mean that he, too, had a new set of soft tyres left unused for the Grand Prix.
"It's true that the track was improving with every passing minute, but I can't say if using two sets of Softs in Q2 would have seen me get through into Q3," he admitted. "It would have been very difficult and we had decided to sacrifice something today in favour of tomorrow's race."
"In all honesty, this result matches our expectations going into the session," said team principal Stefano Domenicali. "Certainly we can't be happy about these positions, quite the contrary in fact: we are the first to be disappointed, but our potential today is what it is and now we must try and get the most out of it.
"We came up with a programme aimed at saving as many new sets as possible, trying at the same time to get as far forward on the grid as we could," he said, citing tyre degradation in the race as the crucial factor that all the teams in the pit lane were having to focus on. "If and how well this choice will pay off, is something we will only find out tomorrow afternoon."
Once again, the order of the day was safety first, with Domenicali keeping an eye on the long game of the 2012 championship.
"The aim for this Grand Prix is damage limitation, which means bringing both cars home in the points," he said. "I expect it will be a very hard race, for the cars, the drivers and the teams: whoever manages to avoid making any mistakes will already have a fair chance of getting a good result."