Fernando Alonso has admitted that he hopes to give the massed ranks of Spanish fans something to cheer about on Sunday, after his near miss in qualifying was greeted by a deafening silence from the grandstands.

The reaction was in stark contrast to the roar which greeted the McLaren driver's provisional pole earlier in the session, and underlined the passion that the country's new-found Formula One audience has for its hero. Seemingly out of reach after posting a lap several tenths clear of both Ferraris and McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton, Alonso was made to dig deep on his final run after Felipe Massa ducked under the target time to snatch pole.

A slight error at the new chicane probably cost Alonso top spot, as he could only manage an improvement that got to within three-hundredths of the Brazilian, but he was nevertheless relieved to have qualified on the front row at a circuit where overtaking remains difficult.

"It obviously will be not as good as the clean side, but I am getting used to it," he said of an outside qualifying position, "Sometimes you can have a really good start from the 'other side' and, you know, we have a lot of straight, a lot of metres, between the starting point and the first corner, so we'll have to wait and see. I prefer second to third for sure."

The world champion said that, despite McLaren being ousted from top spot for the first time all weekend, he remained confident that the team had the upper hand over Ferrari - even if the qualifying session underlined just how close the fight had become at the front of the grid.

"I think the first time all weekend they have been in front of us has been in qualifying because, in P1, P2 and P3, we were in front of them, so it should be okay for tomorrow," he insisted, "I am always very confident but, sometimes, things go well and, sometimes, you find yourself very slow in the race, even if you didn't expect it. Obviously, starting from the first row, I have to be confident that's for sure.

"Even if the gap [to Ferrari] was seven- or eight-tenths [in testing] last week, we were not worried. We were just concentrating on our car, on our performance, our changes and our updates and, at the end of the day, when we see the times, we don't look at them too much and we don't care because you never know what fuel loads people are running and how many sets of tyres they used on that particular day. We were expecting to be close enough to fight with them and, yesterday and today, I think we saw this."

Asked about the reaction to his near miss in qualifying, Alonso reassured his fans that they would have something to get excited about on race day.

"I understand the silence but, hopefully, tomorrow, this can become a little noisier," he smiled, "If not, they will enjoy a race between four drivers and two top teams that are as close as they are in this moment. I think it is nice to watch anyway.

"Most of the people who came here came to watch Formula One, some of them for the first time in their life. I think that the people are enjoying the show, all the grand prix from Friday to Sunday."

 

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