Fernando Alonso still believes he'll finish ahead of Sebastian Vettel at U.S. GP
Spaniard will start Sunday's race seven places behind title rival
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 18/11/12 9:56am
Alonso's defiance has become a regular event on a Saturday night this season in the wake of his now-familiar qualifying struggles. But the Spaniard surely surpassed the highest hopes any of his many admirers could have held at the close of qualifying at the Circuit of The Americas when he told Sky Sports F1 that he still expected to finish ahead of Vettel's pole-starting Red Bull.
"I still believe that tomorrow we will score more points than Sebastian," Alonso assured Sky F1's Natalie Pinkham.
Whereas Alonso's F2012 - which was even out-qualified by Felipe Massa on a torrid day of struggle for the Spaniard - has consistently lacked grip this weekend around the Austin circuit, Vettel has topped the timesheets in every session.
When Lewis Hamilton, who will start Sunday's grand prix on the front-row alongside Vettel, exclaimed to the third-placed Mark Webber after qualifying that "you boys are quick", the Aussie simply answered "no, he's the quick one" as he gestured towards his team-mate.
Yet Alonso still remains confident he will prove faster than Vettel - who will be crowned champion again were to win the race and the Ferrari finishes fifth or lower - in Sunday's grand prix.
"In the last race we were in position seven and here we are eighth so it is more or less the same. We will try to recover good places on Sunday - which is normally our strong point. We need to stay confident and optimistic because our race pace tends to improve a lot," he added with characteristic optimism.
To compound Alonso's predicament, however, he will have to line-up on the dirty side of the grid, following a gearbox penalty for the Lotus of Romain Grosjean, on a circuit which has offered little grip throughout.
"I think it will be the biggest difference you ever saw in your starts," said Massa, who lines up sixth on the grid directly ahead of Alonso. "I think it will be massive. This morning, I did starts on the left and I was slower than in the wet."
Even faced with this potential handicap, Alonso suggested a good start will be vital as he anticipates that overtaking will be difficult on the 5.513km track.
"I'm sure that we will move up in the positions. But I think overtaking here will be tricky because the detection point and activation of DRS is just after the high-speed corners in the first sector," he said.
"The first lap will be the majority of the places we can gain. We need to plan."
"Everyone is struggling to put a lap together because of the very low grip," added Ferrari Technical Director Pat Fry. "We tried to get the car exactly right for Fernando's driving style but we haven't quite got there. We're normally better in race trim but it's going to be difficult starting where we are starting."