PODIUM ON THE CARDS? Fernando Alonso is confident that Ferrari can achieve a podium step from the 2014 Singapore F1 GP. Image: AP / Wong Maye-E
SINGAPORE, Malaysia - Fernando Alonso is cautiously optimistic that he can collect a podium place after his stuttering Ferrari surprised him with its competitiveness in qualifying for the 2014 Singapore GP on Saturday (September 20).
The twice Formula 1 champion will start Sunday's (September 21) race fifth after he followed up his promising practice form by qualifying only 0.226sec behind pole-starter and former team mate Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.
Alonso, who went quickest in first and third practices at the Marina Bay street circuit, has had a tough year and is fifth in the Drivers championship after only two podium visits.
'WE ARE COMPETITIVE'
The strong showing under floodlights on the long and winding track where he won in 2008and 2010 allowed him to entertain talk about taking the flag for a third time. He said: "I think a podium is closer than ever, the level of competitiveness is quite good this weekend.
"We are competitive and we'll start in the top five so why not think of the podium? Victory, I think, is very optimistic but we'll see. It's a very demanding circuit on the mechanical side, so we sill see how many cars finish."
Alonso has cut a frustrated figure at Ferrari as the Italian team, historically the most successful in F1, has endured a difficult year in which its long-time chairman Luca di Montezemolo followed team principal Stefano Domenicali in stepping down.
He thought the lengthy, 23-turn, high-downforce, track had a big part to play in the improved display but was still taken aback by how close he got to the flying Mercedes pair of Hamilton and championship leader Nico Rosberg.
Rosberg said: "It was a surprise for us, to be honest. Two-tenths from pole is something we could not have imagined possible on Friday. In free practice we are normally competitive but then in quali we lose ground but it didn't happen here - we are still competitive also, so good news.
"Reason? Not clear... probably the track characteristics suit our car. We know the power effect is a bit low here."
Alonso, who predicted the race would hit the two-hour maximum time limit rather than go the full 61 laps, said his car had required hardly any tinkering for the weekend. "I felt confident in the car from Lap 1 in P1. I was first and I kept first in P1. It's also a circuit where I normally feel confident.
"I think we did one minor set-up change so my car was quite good from the first lap which also helps the driver to keep doing laps with similar characteristics and performance. So, lots of things - on top of those the power affect - helped us."
The same could not be said for his team mate Kimi Raikkonen who was hampered by a problem with his Ferrari in the final round of qualifying as he clocked the seventh-best time, almost half a second slower than Hamilton.
Raikkonen said: "Struggling a bit with the car. Obviously unfortunately we had a problem. I think it was some electronic things."
2014 Singapore GP quali and practice times
Third Practice Session
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