Fernando Alonso was relieved when a frantic finish to qualifying for the 2013 F1 Chinese Grand Prix saw him on the second row of the grid - and the Spaniard reckons he has a good chance of coming away from Shanghai with a strong result to boost his championship hopes.

"To end qualifying with both cars in the top five is a result that fills me with hope for the race," agreed a cautiously optimistic Alonso after putting his Ferrari into third place for the start of Sunday's race. "The F138 has been competitive all weekend and that means we have made a step forward, which is down to the work of the team."

Nor was Alonso sounding too concerned that the different tyre strategies of the other teams would become a threat once the race was underway. "I'm not concerned about Red Bull's choice [of prime tyres], and Mercedes [on options] usually has a higher degradation than ours," he said.

But Alonso was more anxious about what some of the other cars immediately around him on the grid - also on soft option compounds - would be able to do in the race.

"I'm definitely expecting an interesting race in which the biggest threat could come from [Kimi] Raikkonen as the Lotus has shown it manages its tyres well." he said. "In terms of establishing what will be the best strategy, we will be in for a long night and that will be the case for everyone, given that almost all our main competitors will start on the softs."

The team's technical director Pat Fry explained the team's thinking coming into this weekend's race, pointing out that: "It emerged from yesterday's free practice that the medium would be the best tyre for the race, both in terms of its consistency and its relative degradation.

"During qualifying, it wasn't a surprise to see how all the teams had decided to save this compound for the race, opting to use the softs in all three legs," he continued. "We preferred not to take any risks, doing a second lap.

"After this proved to be the safest choice, attention turned to possible strategies for the race and therefore whether to go with the medium or to try for another quick lap on the soft tyre to be sure of getting a better grid position. The latter option seemed the most sensible and that was confirmed when most of the teams did the same thing," he said.

China is the first time this year that Alonso has out-qualified his team mate Felipe Massa, who will start right behind him from the third row of the grid from fifth place. The last time Alonso started in front of the Brazilian was at the US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas late last year.

"It was a good qualifying, with the car working well and being quick," insisted Massa afterwards. "To be honest, after my performance in the second and third free practice sessions, I expected to start in the top three, but it's very likely that our competitors were running with more fuel.

"It's also true that strategy counts a lot more than one or two places on the grid," he added. "Today's qualifying featured different choices: we preferred to use the soft tyre right from the first run in Q1, because it looked complicated getting through to the next part with the medium. That has allowed us to save them for tomorrow in a race that looks like being very closely contested and where as many as three stops might be necessary.

"Today, our main competitors probably did better than us, but the race is long and anything can happen - tyre management and tactical choices will definitely be the key factors!"

"I am extremely pleased with the performance of Fernando and Felipe and I am also optimistic for tomorrow," said Fry. "I am expecting an unpredictable race because the cars at the front will have to stop first due to the degradation and the traffic towards the back could prove to be dangerous.

"I expect a difficult race in which strategy and tyre performance could play an even more important role than ever," he added.


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