Fernando Alonso says Ferrari will need to "try and improve" for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix on Sunday after he could only qualify in eighth place.

Alonso felt his Ferrari F14 T was "good" during final practice and qualifying. However, in the top-ten shootout his best effort was a 1 minute 39.709 seconds, leaving him over a second off the Mercedes' at the front and over half a second off Jenson Button's McLaren in P4.

"It was a strange qualifying and a strange day," said Alonso, who will actually start in seventh after Kevin Magnussen takes his five-place grid penalty.

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"The car felt good and it felt well set-up. We didn't change massively the set-up and we didn't suffer with understeer or oversteer. But obviously we are not quick enough.

"There were guys out there one second quicker than us and this is not good. The last couple of races we were a little bit more comfortable. In Singapore and Suzuka we were more competitive than what we did today. We need to look at the reasons and we need to try and improve for tomorrow."

Alonso also rejected suggestions the problems were due to the engine and a lack of traction.

"Traction was not an issue for us this weekend," he maintained. "In fact there is only one corner with traction and that is the last corner. The others are just to keep minimum speed as high as you can in these 90 degree corners. Maybe we lack a little bit of speed on the straights and maybe we lack of bit of braking stability for some of the corners - but in general, as I said, I feel good with the car."

As for the race, the Spaniard thinks with the number of stops likely to be limited - it looks increasingly like a one-stop strategy will be the norm - the start will be more crucial than ever.

"It will be a difficult race because overtaking, I guess, will be very hard on this [semi-street] circuit," he explained. "We know the tyres are extremely hard, so we can do a lot of laps with them and there is not big degradation. That will probably push us to not many stops.

"The pit lane speed limit changed today [as well] from 80 kilometres per hour to 60 and that will also favour the minimum stops possible. We will see."

"There are also though some other possibilities from the race. The start is going to be crucial - that could define more or less the race in a way. It is the longest distance from the start to the first braking area that we have in the championship.

"Tomorrow the start is probably more important than ever."