Fernando Alonso has set his sights on getting on the podium in Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix, despite having to settle for fifth place in qualifying.

Alonso heads into the 14th round in the F1 2012 World Championship with a 37-point lead over Lewis Hamilton in the battle for the Drivers' title, but after the McLaren driver took pole position today, more than half a second up on Pastor Maldonado in second, the Spaniard conceded the race is going to be all about damage limitation and that the Scuderia is on the 'defensive'.

"Today, pole position was absolutely out of our grasp: Hamilton was on another planet. We must settle for this fifth place but that doesn't mean we are not hoping to improve on it tomorrow: our target is the podium," Alonso said.

"The result pretty much matches what we expected after yesterday, given that right from the afternoon we were not particularly brilliant. The only surprise this evening was Maldonaldo and it was really unexpected to see him on the front row."

Meanwhile, Alonso added that he expects there to be lots of pit stops on Sunday and that tyre strategy could be quite complex.

"Here, the performance difference between the two compounds is probably the highest of the whole championship; between one and a half and two seconds, which could be an important factor tomorrow. It's true the Softs can last longer but it's also true that, with such a significant difference, the Supersofts could also be an interesting option. I expect a lot of pit stops, specifically because of the tyre degradation," he confirmed.

Alonso also went on to say that he thought the F2012 would be more of a match for the McLaren and Red Bull on the Marina Bay street circuit.

"Honestly, before arriving in Singapore, I expected more, but we soon realised we would be tackling this Grand Prix on the defensive. The race will be very long, very hard physically and mentally, because you need to always concentrate to the maximum, with no margin for error: the slightest mistake can carry a high price on a track where the barriers are very close. Reliability will be very important and the number one priority will be getting to the finish in the best possible position."

As for Felipe Massa, the Brazilian had another less than impressive afternoon in the sister car and he was knocked out in Q2. He will start 13th.

"It was a very difficult qualifying. I really struggled to put together a good lap, suffering particularly in the final sector, where the rear tyres were sliding and, as a result, were degrading. It's a problem I've had since yesterday and we did not manage to fix it. Let's hope we can do something for the race, otherwise it will be really hard," Massa conceded.

"We must look carefully at the strategy, starting with which tyre to use for the start of the race: there's a lot of difference in speed between the two compounds, but both seem to degrade significantly. The aim will be to finish the race in the points, which definitely won't be easy, but we'll give it our best shot. Not all the updates we brought here worked as we had expected and hoped for, which certainly hasn't helped. So we must understand why with a view to the rest of the season."