Fernando Alonso has admitted that, despite starting his home race from the front row of the grid, the thought of claiming another podium finish remains only a possibility.
The Spaniard pulled out all the stops to take advantage of a confused qualifying situation, where some big names failed to make the final phase and others opted not to complete timed runs in Q3, and initially lined up in third spot. However, when news of Lewis Hamilton's exclusion broke in early evening, Alonso was promoted to the front row, where he will line up alongside surprise polesitter Pastor Maldonado.
Despite claiming victory in round two at Sepang, however, Ferrari
has yet to demonstrate front-running pace, with Alonso something of an after-thought when it came to predicting favourites for the Barcelona race.
"If someone told us two or three days ago, before coming to Barcelona or after the Mugello test, that we will be on the podium [in Spain], I think we all agree we would be happy with that position," the double world champion conceded, "Today, obviously with this position, that dream or that target is closer, but I think the race is very long tomorrow and, as we saw in Bahrain, Kimi [Raikkonen] started [eleventh], was P10 or P11 in lap one and nearly won the race in the end, so the positions are not crucial anymore as in previous years.
"I think it will be an extremely tough race tomorrow to take care of the tyres again. We will see probably a lot of pit-stops for everybody, [and] the more pit-stops you have, the more risk you have to have a problem in the pits. There are a lot of factors tomorrow that we need to take account, [but] a podium, I think, will be a good result for us [as], after this morning's practice, we didn't think we could be in the top five or top six. I think P8 to P12 was more or less our position after practice, [so] I'm happy and a little bit surprised to be in front of McLaren, both Red Bulls, both Lotuses, [but] today means nothing if we don't finish the job tomorrow."
and Red bull are both behind him, Alonso is well aware of the threat posed by Lotus, particularly after both Romain Grosjean
and Kimi Raikkonen
- who share row two - exhibited good long-run pace throughout practice.
"Yeah, definitely, the Lotus will be a threat tomorrow," the Spaniard agreed, "They've been quick all weekend so, tomorrow, [there will be] no surprises if they are fighting for the podium or even for a race win. Sebastian [Vettel] is P7, so he will be fighting for a top position later in the race. With Jenson [Button] and Mark [Webber] having the possibility to chose which tyres to start on, I'm sure that they will prepare something good to recover position because they have the pace. The race will be tough to maintain positions because we believe that there are quicker cars behind us but let's see what we can do. On the other hand, this is not an easy track to overtake on..."
After the blistering start that took him from fifth to first by the opening corner in last year's Spanish race, Alonso is hoping that a good getaway can leave him - and his partisan fans - in a solid position for the rest of the afternoon.
"A little bit like Pastor and Williams, our race pace is much better than qualifying pace - that is normally our weakest point and we suffer on Saturday some bad positions and then compromise a little bit our race pace," he reasoned, "Tomorrow, we have a privileged position to start, so the first corner will be important if we can gain some positions, but it's important also not to lose.
"We must score points tomorrow, good points, with this position we have, so, aggressive start, yes, crazy start, no. [There is] no doubt that this is a special weekend for me and, as I said on Thursday, there is always some extra motivation, some over-performing [in front of the home crowd]. Thanks to the updates we had here, definitely we did a step forward, because we hardly got into Q3 in the first four races and now we arrive with a little more comfort. In Q3, the lap was good but, with another hundred new tyres, I would repeat the same time - I don't think there is any time left. But, then, the points are given tomorrow, not today....."