Fernando Alonso is optimistic that Ferrari's gentle tire use could give the team the edge over Red Bull in race conditions despite being outpaced by Sebastian Vettel during Friday practice.
The Spaniard, who was two tenths off Vettel, admitted that Red Bull looks strong based on today's running, but with tire degradation expected to be high around the street track, he believes that this could prove to be Ferrari's trump card. This is despite still hoping that Ferrari could improve its single-lap pace tomorrow by enough to challenge Vettel.
"Our long-run pace was OK," said the Spaniard. "Normally here we face high tire degradation, which is good for us because our car seems to take care of the tires better than some others. If there is tire degradation, maybe we have an opportunity.
"Last year, on Friday we had a few problems and then in qualifying we were up there. I hope tomorrow it's similar and we are fighting for the best positions. But we are realistic and today we saw a very strong Red Bull, so it's not going to be easy. Let's hope that things change for the better."
Despite the lap time disadvantage compared to Red Bull, Alonso was happy with the balance of his Ferrari, but he warned that the picture could change tomorrow after today's running was blighted by curb problems that reduced running time and red flags. This, along with the difficulty of getting a perfect lap when on fresh rubber, means that the competitive order could be different on Saturday.
"We are more or less happy with the car," said Alonso. "But here it is difficult to exploit the potential of the car when you have only one or two laps from the tires at maximum performance. There is always the traffic, and on this occasion there were also the red and yellow flags. So I think that the times maybe are a little mixed up.
"I'm sure that there are some quick guys who didn't perform because of these factors and there are some other guys who are maybe up in the front but will struggle a bit more tomorrow."