MELBOURNE, March 16, 2012 (AFP) - Fernando Alonso played down his hopes of a triumphant weekend with Ferrari after a low-key performance in difficult conditions Friday during practice for the Australian Grand Prix.
The two-time world champion denied he was struggling with the handling of his car, but said he expected it to perform better in the Malaysian Grand Prix, the second race on the 20-race 2012 calendar.
"It will be interesting to see how competitive we can be here in Australia and next week in Malaysia," he said.
"I think they are quite opposites -- I think one is a stop-and-go circuit and the other is not. So it is all braking and acceleration in Australia and in Malaysia it's about corners and keeping average speed high.
"I guess with the feeling with the car, with the first impressions, it should not be our favourite track, this Melbourne. I expect more to come."
In rain-hit conditions, Alonso wound up fourth fastest at the end of the final session of the day. His Ferrari team-mate Brazilian Felipe Massa was seventh.
He said he was not having major problems with the handling of the team's F2012 car, despite one tricky moment soon after he had gone on to slick tyres.
"I was attacking for sure. I was not sleeping, but the conditions were difficult," he said.
"It was damp in some of the corners and also we came from intermediate tyres so the straights didn't feel like straights -- also there are corners with white lines. The car is moving there in damp conditions."
He said it was difficult to establish Ferrari's pace in comparison with their rivals.
"I guess, or I think, that with the Red Bulls 10th or 11th, and with Hamilton 16th... there is a little bit of a mix-up -- but anyway, I'm happy even if I am not the favourite," Alonso said.