Fernando Alonso believes his performance in qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix has flattered the actual pace of his Ferrari.
The Spanish driver finished in fifth position, but just three tenths behind McLaren's Jenson Button and one tenth adrift of Lewis Hamilton. Alonso said he was expecting a much tougher challenge from Mercedes, and reckons the small gap to McLaren showed the team managed to extract everything from its car.
"My subscription to fifth place has been extended for one more Saturday," said Alonso, who has started from fifth place eight times this year. "This time however, getting to my classic starting place on the grid was a bit more of a struggle than usual.
"We are not very pleased with the balance of the car and we were expecting a very competitive Mercedes. However, in Q3, we got much closer to the McLarens than we could have expected, while the first of the Mercedes was left a few tenths back. What this means is that we managed to get a little bit more out of it than our potential would indicate."
The Ferrari driver also believes the race will be very open if, as expected, rain hits the circuit.
"If it really rains tomorrow, it will be a very exciting and open race: no one really knows how competitive they can be in the wet and then it requires next to nothing – one lap more or less out on track at a time when the conditions change – to turn around a situation that looks set in stone."
Felipe Massa had a disappointing day ahead of his home race, the Brazilian finishing in seventh position, nearly half a second behind Alonso.
"I was expecting more from this final qualifying of the year and I definitely cannot be happy with this seventh place," Massa said. "Unfortunately, we were unable to find the right balance throughout the weekend.
"On top of that, it was a rather complicated day. I had to use two sets of softs in Q2 and I paid for that in Q3, as I could only do one run. Tomorrow it's supposed to rain so the situation could change."