VALENCIA, Spain, June 25, 2011 (AFP) - Fernando Alonso believes Ferrari are on the right track and insisted that he was satisfied despite qualifying in fourth position for Sunday's European Grand Prix.
The 29-year-old Spaniard will line up alongside third-placed Lewis Hamilton of McLaren, and behind both Red Bull drivers Sabastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
His Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa was fourth quickest followed by Jenson Button in the second McLaren.
Despite setting the fastest time on Friday, the two time former champion insisted that he had always expected Red Bull to set the pace during qualifying, and that the Italian team's target had always been to beat McLaren.
He said: "I don't think this was a disappointing qualifying, because even if there were those outside the team who built up expectations, within it, we were well aware of the situation.
"The aim was to fight with the McLarens and we did just that. Maybe we had hoped to be ahead of both, but instead we find ourselves splitting the two drivers."
With the Valencia street circuit being notoriously difficult to overtake, Alonso is expecting a tactical race from teams and hopes a good strategy will land him a podium finish. "I reckon that tomorrow we could see different strategies in terms of pit stops," he said.
"Our aim is to finish on the podium and we are in with a chance." Despite finishing fifth, Massa, 30, had a more difficult time in qualifying and was forced to use up an extra set of soft tyres to escape the cut during
the Q1 opening mini-session.
Massa conceded that he had had a tough time and was surprised by the pace of McLaren. "It wasn't an easy qualifying," said Massa, "even if fourth and fifth places is definitely not a bad result.
"Maybe the others, especially McLaren, managed to find a little something extra between practice and qualifying, while Red Bull continues to be very strong, as was predictable.