Fernando Alonso was distinctly underwhelmed at missing not only a shot at pole on home soil in Valencia, but the entire third phase of qualifying.
The Spaniard, who enters the European Grand Prix second in the world championship standings behind Lewis Hamilton, was the biggest casualty of part two of the knock-out session, where he was joined on the sidelines by Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa and fellow world champion Michael Schumacher. The margin of Alonso's miss was a scant 0.004secs, which did little to improve his mood after the team opted to save a set of Pirelli's softest tyres for a possible pole shot.
“When you don't qualify for Q3, it's obviously very sad and there's no point hiding the fact," Alonso sighed, "This result is a cold shower, because our expectations were high and the car's potential has also increased, to the extent that, in Q2, we were only three-tenths off the best. It's easy to say now that, with two runs on softs in Q2, we would have made the cut, but maybe now we would be here lamenting the fact that we did not have two for Q3.
"It's always easy to judge things after the fact, [but] we were not quick enough to be in the top ten in the second part of qualifying and now the race will naturally be tougher. The podium is out of reach and, clearly, with Hamilton on the front row, it's easy to expect that we will lose ground to him. However, the race will be very long and will be run in even higher temperatures than today's, which means everyone will have to be very careful when it comes to tyre management.
"Let's hope that, starting from the clean side of the track, I can quickly make up a few places and then we will try to also make the most of the two sets of new softs we have left. That's at least a small consolation after this far from positive afternoon.”
Team-mate Massa was also disappointed to have missed the cut after his recent upswing in form, especially as the Brazilian's deficit to the top ten was also negligible.
“It's really frustrating ending up outside Q3 by less than a tenth," he noted, "It was a very close qualifying, with so many drivers very near to one another in performance terms - in Q2, we were three-tenths off the fastest time and we were eliminated... It's a shame because the feeling from the car was very good and I always felt comfortable and capable of fighting with the best. The position does not tell the truth that, today, we were worth a place in the top three rows.
"With hindsight, it's easy to say that, if we had used two sets of soft [tyres] in Q2, we could have made the cut, but we wanted to be in the best possible shape for Q3, and Q1 had shown that we were even quick on the medium tyre. Tomorrow, strategy will play a very important role and we have seen on several occasions – Canada being the last one – how even those who start from the back have a chance of fighting for the top places. Obviously, we are not happy today, but we know we have a good car and we still have every chance of securing a good result.”
The Scuderia clearly had designs on pole position, essential on a street circuit as tortuous as Valencia, and technical director Pat Fry admits that missing out on Q3 will necessarily change the team's thinking for race day.