Fernando Alonso declares Ferrari can focus on winning from second & third at Sepang
Spaniard uncharacteristically bullish over victory chances
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 24/03/13 6:55am
On the back of a morale-boosting start to the season last weekend in Australia, Ferrari rolled the strategy dice to perfection in the drying conditions of Saturday's Q3 session by bringing both of their cars in for fresh intermediate tyres ahead of their final runs.
While some of their rivals floundered, both Felipe Massa and Alonso succeeded in moving their way up the order and will start behind only Red Bull's single-lap specialist Sebastian Vettel on Sunday's grid - Ferrari's best combined starting positions since Canada 2011.
And while the fact that, for the fourth consecutive qualifying session, it was Massa rather than Alonso who set the quicker time will provoke some further paddock chatter, Ferrari's established team leader was understandably keener to focus on the bigger picture.
"We expect a lot to come from the car and a lot to come from the engineers, but at the moment we have a car that is able to fight with the top teams," Alonso declared to Sky Sports F1.
"This is more or less what we asked at the end of last year; we dream for a car that is half a second faster than the others - because this is not possible nowadays in Formula 1 - [but] we want a car that is able to fight with the others.
"We know that maybe we don't have the pace of Red Bull in qualifying but we have the pace of them in the race, and similar to Lotus a little bit, so we are in a good position."
And having arrived in Australia under two weeks ago stressing that simply finishing inside the top three, rather than achieving race wins, was the realistic target for Ferrari in the opening flyway rounds, Alonso has now admitted they have a chance on Sunday to get back on the top step of the podium - something they haven't done for 13 races.
"Always the podium is the target, now starting third the podium is a very realistic target, and we can even think about the win," he declared.
Indeed, Massa's continued revival means Ferrari are posied to make a two-pronged assault on the sole front-running Red Bull right from the off in Sunday's 56-lap race.
For his part, the in-form Brazilian returns to the frontrow of the grid for first time since the 2010 Bahrain GP - which was his first race back after his head injury from the previous year.
And while he appears to have picked up a sore throat since last weekend's season-opener, Massa was still in very upbeat mood for Sunday.
"I'm very confident. We did a great qualifying, we did a great job in both races [so far this season]," he said.
"The strategy didn't work so well in the last race but I was inside the decision as well, so I hope we do everything possible to make a good strategy this time.
"But also a good start, a good race, consistent and concentrate on putting the car in a great position at the end of the race like we have done in the qualifying.
"But I'm very happy, I'm comfortable in the car and I think this shows if the car is like I want I can be competitive like I've shown many times."