|© AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
Fernando Alonso may have failed to cheer his home fans during qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix on Saturday after he qualified fifth, but the Ferrari driver has already discounted two of his rivals starting ahead of him.
Mercedes locked out the front row with Nico Rosberg claiming pole position ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton, and Alonso is sure that those positions won’t convert into a serious challenge for the Spaniard.
“We were well aware that Red Bull and Mercedes would both be very strong, but while it’s true we have to start taking back points on (Sebastian) Vettel, we are not too scared of Mercedes, who usually have higher tyre degradation,” Alonso said.
Besides the defending champion’s Red Bull, which will be starting third, Alonso also marked Kimi Raikkonen as a threat for his podium hopes. The Finn will be starting the Spanish GP from fourth place.
“So far he has gone very well in the races and the Lotus doesn’t seem to suffer too much on the tyre front,” he observed.
Tyre management will be the key for all teams, particularly Mercedes, which has the pace in its car but no durability.
“I don’t think we will be the strongest team in the race but we are starting from the best possible position,” said Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn.
At the preceding Bahrain Grand Prix, Rosberg started from pole but lost several positions and eventually finished ninth due to issues with his tyres.
"I have to be a bit cautious because of what happened in Bahrain, so for sure, nice but to be enjoyed with caution,” the German driver said about his pole position in Spain.
"We’re just a bit behind at the moment. I’m sure we’ve caught up now," he said referring to Mercedes eating up its tyres quicker than its rivals. "But then you come here and there’s different issues again because here it’s more the graining of the tyres that’s the main issue.
"To win it’s not good enough to start from pole, you need to have the fastest race car,” he pointed out. "I’m not going to sit here and say I’m very confident that I can go for the win. No, the target needs to be a little bit less than that I think – maybe a podium.”