Fernando Alonso was positive about Ferrari's progress after qualifying in ninth position for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Spaniard had started from 12th place in the opening race in Australia, but he made it in to Q3 in today's grid-deciding session at Sepang and will start from eighth place following a penalty for Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen. The Ferrari driver said he was encouraged to see his team was closer to the front during the second qualifying segment.
"I think it's a step in the right direction," said Alonso. "We were one second off pole position in Q2 and today we were sixth tenths and a half, so I think these three tenths is quite encouraging for us and quite a positive sign that we are moving in the right direction."
The two-time champion, who finished in fifth place in Melbourne, is expecting to have stronger race pace again on Sunday, although he conceded Ferrari has to improve fast if it is to stay in the championship fight.
"Qualifying I think went well for us. Even if the result is the maximum we can achieve for now, it's not enough for our expectations. We need to improve quickly," he said.
"In the race in Melbourne we saw a better pace than during the rest of the weekend. We know the degradation is quite high here in Sepang and in Melbourne and during winter testing perhaps we had a little bit more degradation than our main competitors. We start in eighth, but we have Kimi behind and he's much quicker than us so it will be tough. But in the race we normally are in a better place and hopefully tomorrow will repeat the performance."