Despite equalling his best qualifying performance of the year, Fernando Alonso admits that Ferrari still needs to raise its game if it is to consider beating Red Bull and McLaren to victory.
The Spaniard, who also qualified third fastest for his home race before being promoted to the front row by Lewis Hamilton's penalty, was pipped to the front row in Canada by both the Briton and reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, who gave Red Bull its third pole position start of the year after Bahrain and Monaco. Despite being encouraged by the Scuderia's continued development as a contender, Alonso insisted that there was still a performance gap that it needed to close before it could be considered a legitimate threat for the top step of the podium.
"You never know," he said when asked whether the F2012 could triumph in Montreal, "Races this year are very difficult to predict. What we think on Saturday is normally not anywhere near what happens on Sunday, so we'll see.
"It would be nice to win here, as it's a good circuit for Ferrari historically, [and there are] a lot of fans here. Also, it's Gilles Villeneuve's anniversary, 30 years, so it would be nice to offer all the tifosi here in Canada a good result. But we know there are, at the moment, two guys quicker than us, as they proved today. [They are], doing a very good job and, tomorrow, we need to do better if we want to win."
Despite not being able to improve on his final run in Q3 - and allowing Hamilton into P2 in the process - Alonso insisted that he had got the maximum out of his car, even though it appeared to work better on different parts of the circuit.
"It's not easy here to improve laps," he claimed, "There are only five or six corners on the circuit, so you are gaining or losing milliseconds corner by corner. We repeat more or less the same timed lap. On the second, I gained a little bit from the first sector and I lost a little bit in the last but, overall, the limit was more or less there – the 14.1.
"So, [I'm] happy with the performance of the car, it has been a very smooth weekend for us. All the new parts work as expected. Felipe and me felt straightaway a good grid and a step in performance in the car, so a very good weekend so far."
Alonso was quick to praise the efforts of his team, meanwhile, with a Montreal-specific aero package and new exhaust being brought to Canada and paying dividends.
"Yeah, the car felt quite good yesterday when we tested some new parts, and we feel much more happy with the balance and grip," the Malaysian GP winner reported, "As you said, [our] best [qualifying] position so far, repeating what we did in Barcelona. [There], we got one important podium [but], in Monaco, on a completely different circuit, we had a competitive car again and a good podium once more.
"Now, here, on completely different circuit, with long straights and chicanes, we are also competitive, so this is a very good sign for us. Very good teamwork, because all the improvements we have been making on the car are really paying off now. It's a first step. Obviously, the world will never stop, for us or for the competitors, but, at the moment, we are extremely happy and thankful to the guys in the factory."