Fernando Alonso points the finger at Ferrari's F138 for his qualifying struggles
Spaniard seemingly unimpressed with snipes about his Saturday pace
By Pete Gill and James Galloway at Spa
Last Updated: 26/08/13 9:05am
In what has become something of a familiar pattern of events for the Spaniard, Alonso was able to rescue a solid result in Sunday's Belgian GP from a lowly qualifying position - salvaging second place behind the victorious Sebastian Vettel from a starting berth of ninth - to keep alive his World Championship ambitions.
There have been suggestions in recent months that Alonso himself might be a factor in Ferrari's qualifying struggles - suggestions which Alonso clearly had in mind when he faced the press on Sunday and was asked to consider his prospects of catching Vettel.
"We need to improve qualifying performance, but to be honest I am doing what I can," the Spaniard answered pointedly. "I am eight-three ahead against my team-mate [Felipe Massa] in qualifying. Yesterday was a bad qualifying but I was six-tenths quicker than my team-mate. It is not that races are good and qualifying are bad. We are extracting the maximum out of the car all the time.
"In the races there are more aspects, it is not just about the pure performance of the car - there is strategy, management of the tyres, the characteristics of the cars. In those aspects, we are very strong. In pure performance of the car, we are lacking some performance compared to the others."
Following Vettel's resounding victory at Spa, Alonso has slipped 46 points behind his perennial rival. Yet despite the size of the mounting deficit, the Spaniard continues to believe that Vettel can be caught.
"The Championship is open - and we have the best example of that last year when I was leading Sebastian by 41 points after Monza but I arrived at Texas 15 points behind. Things change very quickly," Alonso maintained.
"We have to keep developing and keep improving our performance. We cannot forget that in the first five races we were very competitive, winning two races and challenging for a podium all the time. We then went backwards but we understood the problem and everything we are not bringing to the races are delivering now what we expect."
Although Ferrari struggled in Saturday's rain, their pace appeared to be strong throughout the weekend in dry conditions, with Alonso claiming he would be leaving Spa in a more optimistic frame of mind than when he arrived.
"We were extremely unlucky in Q3 on Saturday. Unfortunately, in these changeable conditions sometimes your luck is unlucky. We had to plan the perfect race, and everything worked fine so we could recover some good points," he said.
"It was extremely important for the Championship to get some good points after three races which were not good.
"I'm happy with the feeling I had this weekend and the parts we brought here - they seem to be working fine. But we are not one and two, we are eighth and ninth in qualifying and second and sixth in the race, so there is still work to do.
"After not good performances from the car or good feelings in Germany and Hungary, we have recovered some of the optimism we lost and it was a good weekend for the championship in terms of feelings and points.
"But we still have to recover some of the gap, but the Championship is very long."