Melbourne: Starting fifth on the grid for Formula One's season-opening Australian Grand Prix, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso says he has every chance of a podium finish if his car lasts the distance in Sunday's race. Although the Ferraris have appeared off the pace of front-running Mercedes across the race weekend, Alonso has been consistent, finishing in the top three of all practice sessions ahead of Saturday's rain-hit qualifying.
The Spaniard said little can be taken for granted with the all-new V6 turbo hybrid cars, with all teams having fingers crossed about how they will perform in their first race on Sunday. "The last couple of years, you start fifth, you get a good start and a good strategy, probably the podium is quite OK," he said. "This year, this first race, if you say that the first priority is to finish the race, maybe you sound pessimistic. But I'm sure all the drivers, even the guy who's in first place, cannot be sure he'll finish the race.
"We'll try to do everything possible from our side for zero mistakes and make sure we cross that (finish) line," Alonso added. "If we do so, the podium can arrive."
New teammate Kimi Raikkonen didn't fare as well as Alonso, failing to make it out of Q2 after hitting a wet patch while accelerating away from a bend and crashing into a track wall. The Finn will start the race from 11th. "I don't think I'd have gone quicker anyway as I had already reduced my speed at this point because I knew already I wouldn't make it to Q3," Raikkonen said. (Also read: Sebastian Vettel bewildered by qualifying flop)
"We know we have a lot of work to do in every area, especially on car set-up, but at the same time, we are sure we are going in the right direction."
Alonso insisted there were more positives than negatives for the team. "We look at our strong points. We're starting fifth with a car that has been quite well balanced all weekend in all conditions, we have zero problems so far all weekend, so starting fifth we have the opportunity to score good points."