Despite being delighted with his second pole position of the 2012 F1 season, and his second in inclement conditions, Fernando Alonso acknowledges that perhaps the toughest task of the German Grand Prix weekend is still to come.
The championship leader defied the rain to beat off both Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber to top spot on the grid but, having been hunted down by the Australian in similar circumstances at Silverstone two weeks ago, knows that Red Bull will be strong on race day. Although Webber takes a five-place drop after his gearbox broke on start-up ahead of Saturday morning free practice, Vettel will remain a threat to Alonso's hopes of re-establishing a big lead at the top of the points table, particularly as the German is looking to win his home race for the first time.
"Until now, it's been a very good weekend for us in terms of car performance, but we need to finish the job tomorrow," Alonso admitted, "Tomorrow, we will try to do our best - whatever the position will be at the end is difficult to know because we didn't have enough dry running to know about degradation [and] tyre performance. Friday, we had some rain in FP1 and, this morning, in FP3 was not a big preparation for the race either, so tomorrow is a question mark for everybody.
"We will all start the race in the same condition with some things to learn during the race, very open in strategy, very flexible because, as I said, we don't have enough information from the weekend so far. [However], the car is performing well in all conditions this weekend, which didn't always happen. We were quick on inters and not extreme and vice versa, sometimes good on wets and not so competitive on dries, but it's true that, this weekend, both Felipe [-Massa] and me were happy with the balance of the car and also quite competitive in all conditions."
With qualifying having started dry, before getting progressively wetter through its second phase so that the pole position shoot-out was conducted on a soaking surface, albeit without any further precipitation, tyre choice and the timing of final runs was going to be key in the battle for the front row. Alonso was the last contender on track and, even though he improved his mark, he didn't need to push as neither Red Bull driver got close to his original time. However, perhaps learning from the error of others elsewhere, Alonso credited the Ferrari tactician with the crucial decision to fit fresh tyres for the run.
"I think it was a very good decision in the end because, obviously, I didn't know what timed lap you could do if you kept running," he noted, "But, as soon, as I put on the second set of tyres, I found a little bit more grip in the car. [Obviously], the track was improving, but I think we improved a little bit more thanks to the tyres, not only the track conditions, so I'm happy with the strategy today and I think it was the right call."
Tactics could also playa key role in the race - Alonso lost out four laps from the end at Silverstone owing to more worn tyres - but the Spaniard is equally aware that allowing Vettel the early advantage could scupper his chances of a third victory in 2012.
"We will see," he warned, "Obviously, it will depend on how the start is. Sometimes, you feel a good start straightaway and you concentrate on the first corner line. If you feel too much wheelspin, or too little, you try to cover it a little bit to protect your position. But the race is long, 67 laps in front of us, and everything isn't finished at the first corner. So far, our starts have probably been the best this year, so I'm not too worried - at the moment...."