Felipe Massa will start the season-opening Australian Grand Prix from the outside of row two, after getting the better of Ferrari team-mate in qualifying at Albert Park.
The delayed Saturday session was finally completed on Sunday morning, with Q2 run in challenging conditions as a damp track refused to dry quite enough for slicks, and the pole position shoot-out starting on intermediates before requiring a change to the supersoft.
Although Massa required a late lap to escape from the Q2 'drop zone', he was able to post top four times throughout the final phase, eventually losing out only to the two Red Bulls and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.
“Given the difficult conditions we encountered yesterday in the first part of qualifying, and then again this morning, I'm reasonably pleased with this fourth place,” Massa said with some understatement, “In such changeable conditions, the slightest inconvenience could see you not make it through the various stages of qualifying.”
Despite having to settle for fifth overall, just three-thousandths of a second off his team-mate, Alonso remained upbeat – even if his body language and facial expression suggested otherwise.
“I am very pleased with this result because, if our aim for the year is to reduce the gap to our competitors and start from better positions than we have done in the past two seasons, we can claim to have managed it,” he explained.
“After winter testing, it was difficult to draw any conclusions and that was also the case today, with a delayed qualifying and very changeable weather conditions. Once again, Red Bull demonstrated its superiority but, while it's true that we fought with them right down to the last race for the past two seasons, I am sure that once again this year we will be there to mix it with them - if we do everything perfectly without making mistakes. I think that, starting from fifth, a podium finish is a realistic option”.
Massa, meanwhile, admitted that, with the likes of Nico Rosberg and the two Lotus drivers lining up behind the Ferraris, the race – coming just a matter of hours after the completion of qualifying – would not be straightforward, especially with the forecast of more rain.
“We can expect a long and difficult race where the strategy will play a key factor as always,” the Brazilian concluded, “However, starting from a good position is a positive and encouraging sign for the start of this championship.”