Fernando Alonso says Ferrari has reason to feel more upbeat about its situation after producing some encouraging pace during the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Although the Spaniard's chances of finishing on the podium were dashed after he damaged his front wing in a collision with Lewis Hamilton, Alonso had produced lap times during the race that were a match for everybody apart from Sebastian Vettel. That pace, which came just 24 hours after a fairly disappointing qualifying highlighted that Ferrari had much work to do to lift its single-lap performance, has left Alonso encouraged for the title fight ahead.
"It was a fantastic day for us to see that we were able to fight with McLaren and to fight with [Mark] Webber as well," he explained. "We did that a little bit in Australia, too, fighting with Jenson [Button] and Webber. But, for whatever reason, we are struggling a little bit more on Saturday. On Sunday, we feel a little bit more confident and much more comfortable to drive the car.
"We wear the tires maybe a little bit less than the others, so we can keep more consistent laps and here was a very good feeling. We did not expect to be fighting with them, so there is a very positive atmosphere now in the team after the race – and we can arrive in China much more happy."
Despite feeling that there were positives to take out of Malaysia, Alonso is under no illusions how hard things will be in China, with the low temperatures set to hit Ferrari's struggles to get tires up to the right operating window.
"It will not be an easy weekend for us," he said. "In China in five days' time we will be running there in free practice. There is not much time to change cars, so I expect difficult pace, and a difficult weekend again. But the race is long. In qualifying [in Malaysia] it seemed the first four cars were unbeatable, but in the race, with everything normal, we were [set to finish] second or third. So we arrive to China knowing that it will be difficult but we will have some opportunities if we do things right. We need to keep working in a good direction, as we did here.
"In Australia we were not quick enough in qualifying, but in the race we were struggling a lot and were 40-50 seconds behind the leader. Here, I leave Sepang much happier because we were fighting with them."