Fernando Alonso has made no secret in recent weeks of his belief that Ferrari are at risk of slipping out of the 2013 F1 world championship battle, and after struggling in Germany three weeks ago and at the three-day Young Drivers Test that was the first taste of new-spec Pirelli tyres he'd feared the worst heading to Hungary this weekend.
In the circumstances, then, Alonso was delighted to claim fifth place on the grid after qualifying at the Hungaroring, and said that this proved the team was more competitive than they had been at the last race.
"This fifth place is good news after a couple of difficult weekends in Silverstone and the Nürburgring," he said. "Especially after seeing things improve compared to yesterday, when our race pace left us with even more doubts.
"Today, we were more competitive thanks to a change of set-up and some modifications on the aero side, done more with the aim of getting consistency rather than pure performance," he explained. "Traction and turn-in have improved and now we must look carefully at the start to try and make up a few places then and, on this front, the extra grip from being on the clean side should help.
Alonso agreed that the tight and twisty nature of the Hungaroring made overtaking difficult, so any gains in position would have to come early in the race or not at all.
"It's even more important to try and make up ground immediately, particularly if we want to prevent Vettel from increasing his lead," he said. "The strategy will be very open, the tyres are new for everyone and the high track temperature means we need to think of a strategy that can be modified at any moment.
"The podium is always our target and I feel we can fight for it, even though we know it won't be easy with such strong competition ahead of us," he added.
Alonso's team mate Felipe Massa will line up directly behind him on the grid in seventh place, and the Brazilian was disappointed not to be further up.
"The result does not live up to our expectations," he admitted. "Both myself and Fernando pushed to the maximum without making mistakes, but we were not able to fight for the front positions.