Fernando Alonso has this afternoon written of his chances of finishing the European Grand Prix on the podium, and is resigned to losing ground to Lewis Hamilton – who will start second – in the drivers’ champion race after qualifying only eleventh today in Valencia.
The Spaniard was only three-tenths of a second of Romain Grosjean, who set the fastest lap in Q2, but because the field was so closely matched, Alonso found himself dumped out of qualifying, along with Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa.
“We were not quick enough to be in the top ten in the second part of qualifying and now the race will naturally be tougher,” said Alonso. “The podium is out of reach and clearly, with Hamilton on the front row, it's easy to expect that we will lose ground to him. However, the race will be very long and will be run in even higher temperatures than today's, which means everyone will have to be very careful when it comes to tyre management.
“Let's hope that, starting from the clean side of the track I can quickly make up a few places and then we will try to also make the most of the two sets of new Softs we have left: that's at least a small consolation after this far from positive afternoon.”
Massa will start from thirteenth. He was not very happy either. “It's really frustrating ending up outside Q3 by less than a tenth,” said the Brazilian. “It was a very close qualifying, with so many drivers very near to one another in performance terms: in Q2, we were three tenths off the fastest time and we were eliminatedâ€¦A shame because the feeling from the car was very good and I always felt comfortable and capable of fighting with the best. The position does not tell the truth: today we were worth a place in the top three rows.
“Obviously, we are not happy today, but we know we have a good car and we still have every chance of securing a good result.”
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo made a rare appearance in the garage today, and he was also disappointed by the result. “Just a few thousandths of a second is all it took to prevent Fernando and Felipe from making it through to Q3 and it's a real shame, because looking at the times in the final part of qualifying and the potential of our car, we could have been in the fight for the rows right at the front,” he said.
“I am very disappointed, because I was hoping for something better: the positions on the starting grid definitely don't reflect the worth of today's Ferrari and on top of that, it has happened at a track where it is particularly difficult to overtake.”