SHANGHAI, April 15, 2011 (AFP) - Fernando Alonso is hopeful Ferrari could finally come good at the Chinese Grand Prix as the legendary Italian team struggles to keep pace with Red Bull and McLaren.
The two-time world champion's upbeat assessment came despite the Spaniard finishing just 14th in the second practice session Friday at the Shanghai International Circuit after suffering hydraulic problems.
It comes on the back of a slow start to the season for Ferrari after particularly lackluster qualifying performances at the opening two races.
The 29-year-old Spaniard said: "For (teammate) Felipe (Massa) and me, we found better warm-up in the hard tyres here than the other two races, so should be good for us in terms of qualifying and the race.
"It was better here today. In Australia it was a problem with the warm-up (and) even in Malaysia with the hard tyre, the first lap was not the quickest. But for whatever reason, here it was okay."
Alonso has qualified fifth in both races this season and was a second off the front-running times set by Red Bull's pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel in both races.
He said the priority now was improving the race pace of his Ferrari rather than focusing on finding extra speed for qualifying. "When the car is good, the qualifying will be good and the race will be even better, so it is what we have to do," Alonso said.
"We have to find some time in the car, some improvements, and the qualifying and the race pace come together. "That is the main priority for us -- improve the car as quick as possible, get new parts every race and hopefully they work good enough. We know some other teams will bring new parts as well; we just need to bring something more than them."
Massa, 29, was sixth in both practice sessions on Friday and is also sixth in the 2011 title chase, four points behind Alonso in fifth place. While the Brazilian was happy with the handling of his car, he feels Red Bull's pace will be difficult to match on Saturday qualifying.
"I am hoping for a better qualifying, but we know it will be very difficult. From what we have seen today, I think the situation in the race could be similar to what we saw in Malaysia. "Today we witnessed a very fast Red Bull."