While seventh place on the grid for the 2012 F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was most certainly not what Fernando Alonso and the Ferrari team were hoping for - especially after working long hours overnight fitting new upgrades to the car ahead of qualifying - the world championship contender was trying hard to stay positive about the situation.

"In all three free practice sessions, we were always around this position, so it would have been too optimistic to hope for more in Q3," he pointed out. "A place between fifth and eighth was within our expectations going into the session and that's where we are.

"I did almost the same time on three occasions between Q2 and Q3, which means there was nothing more to come," he said. "I am pleased with the work we have done today, because we squeezed every last drop of performance out of the car."

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Alonso also insisted that "the updates we brought here have improved our performance," although the truth was that he was only two places ahead of hi team mate Felipa Massa at the end of Q3, and Massa had been without the same full complement of upgrades for this weekend's race at Yas Marina.

"I did not have all the updates we brought here: that was definitely not great, but looking at Fernando's result, it didn't make a difference," said Massa candidly.

"In Q3, I opted to run a different programme to my team-mate, partly because I only had one set of new Options available. Looking back, one could say that was not the best choice, but it's always easy to be wise with hindsight," he continued. "On the last lap I had a bit of oversteer in one corner which cost me a few hundredths: maybe I could have been eighth but it would not have changed much. Honestly, today it would have been hard to do more than this."

Massa also cautioned people from jumping to premature conclusions about the progress made by Ferrari with the new upgrades, pointing out that Yas Marina was a particularly distinctive circuit with unique handling characteristics.

"This circuit seems to suit some cars particularly well: the McLaren was not this quick in the last three races, but here Hamilton took pole really smoothly.," said the Brazilian.

Now it's up to the drivers to salvage the situation in race trim on Sunday.

"Let's hope that tomorrow, thanks to a race pace that is traditionally our strong point, we can make up some places," agreed Massa.

"Saturday is the day we suffer the most, while on Sunday things always go better: let's hope that will also be the case this time," added Alonso. "It's also true that with so little tyre degradation, the strategic choices are much more limited and so too the opportunities to make up places."

At least Alonso can be clear about just what he has to do on Sunday and over the coming weeks if he's to clinch the 2012 world championship over Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel.

"We know that in the three remaining races, we must score fourteen points more than Vettel and that is our one and only objective," he said.