MANAMA, April 20, 2013 (AFP) - Spanish driver Fernando Alonso said third place on the grid for Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix was no problem - because he is sure his car will be much faster in race trim than it was in qualifying.
The two-time world champion, winner of last weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, wound up third-fastest behind surprise pole-sitter German Nico Rosberg of Mercedes and three-time defending world champion and championship leader Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull.
But after qualifying third and winning in Shanghai, in a race of intense cat-and-mouse strategy built around tyre-preservation, he said he was sure a place on the second row of the grid with his team-mate Felipe Massa alongside him was fine.
He said: "It is true that on Sundays normally we improve our performance and are more competitive, on Sunday, than Saturday.
"And on Friday the long run was more or less OK and there was no big trouble with tyres. So, tomorrow will be a good opportunity for us to get consistency and we can fight for the podium - and maybe a win would be even better."
Alonso said also that he decided not to complete his second Q3 run, preferring instead to conserve tyres once he realised that pole position was a long shot for him.
"At the last corner, I saw I was half a tenth to one tenth slower so we decided to come in and save one lap on those tyres - you never know if you'll have to use it in the race.
"Usually, in qualifying, we struggle a lot whereas today we were happy. It puts us in a strong position for racing with the leaders and fighting for a podium."
His Brazilian team-mate Massa gambled on running with harder compound tyres during qualifying and was sixth quickest, promoted to fourth thanks to the penalties handed to rivals Briton Lewis Hamilton and Australian Mark Webber.
"I think maybe the preferred tyre is the hard, that's why people are saving the hard," he explained.
"I didn't save, but I started on the hard, it can be that I gain positions on the first stint because of that, I don't know, we'll see. The race is definitely long!"