Ferrari got both cars through to the final stage of qualifying for the first time in 2012, thanks largely to the welcome return to form of Felipe Massa.

Fernando Alonso will move up one place on the grid due to Michael Schumacher's penalty, meaning that Ferrari will have cars starting in fifth and seventh at the Monte Carlo circuit, their best team performance of F1 2012.

Best of all for the prancing horse, Massa signalled his return to form with an excellent performance around the streets, to be only just over a tenth slower than his team-mate, just as rumours of his departure gain momentum.

The Brazilian was unsurprisingly delighted at this turn of events, and had a real spring in his step as he described his session.

"It was a good qualifying and I could definitely have done even better than this: fifth was within my reach, given what we saw in Q1 and Q2," Massa commented, "In Q3, I did not manage to get a perfectly clean lap because of traffic, but that's an easy thing to find here.

"Having said that, I am very happy with how things have gone in this grand prix so far. Finally, I am having fun at the wheel of the F2012. Clearly, the set-up we have chosen here makes it much easier to make the most of its potential.

"We still struggle a bit in the places where traction is crucial; however, in this area too, we have made progress. Michael did a great lap and I congratulate him: a shame that he will then find himself very close to me on the grid tomorrow afternoon. Let's hope we have a good race tomorrow and that a new championship can really get underway for me!"

Joint championship leader Alonso was also pleased with his day's work, and was able to reflect on the many positives of Ferrari's afternoon.

"Step by step, we are getting closer," he noted, "I am happy with this qualifying, the best as a team that we have seen this season. I have had a good feeling all weekend long. Usually here it falls to the top three on the grid to fight for the win, so I think that our realistic goal is a place on the podium, but we also know that surprises are the order of the day.

"This afternoon and tomorrow morning, I will have to work along with the team to decide on the best strategy. The softs behave well, but we will start on the supersofts, therefore we go into it a bit blind in terms of how long they will last: we will find out in the race how they perform."

Despite the F2012's now infamous lack of outright speed, Alonso was in buoyant mood as he talked about a potential world title fight that few believed he would be in as Ferrari laboured to Q2 knockout in the first round of the season at Melbourne.

"In terms of the championship, it's a good grid, given that of the immediate rivals, only Hamilton starts ahead of us and Vettel is actually ninth," he conluded.

by Philip Barclay

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