x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Alonso unperturbed by Red Bull pair's good show in qualifying

A 'good race' is what matters, says the Ferrari driver after coming in fourth.

Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso enters the pit lane.
Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso enters the pit lane.

MOKPO, South Korea // Never one to shy away from a fight, Fernando Alonso yesterday claimed that while, yes, Red Bull Racing rule the roost when it comes to qualifying, there is no team in the paddock stronger than the prancing horse of Ferrari.

The Spaniard, who leads the world championship, will start today's Korean Grand Prix from fourth after being out-qualified by the dominant Red Bull pairing of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel and the McLaren-Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.

Red Bull's Vettel sits only four points behind Alonso in the standings and has won the previous two races and now collected poles in the previous two qualifying sessions.

There is no doubting the reigning champion is the man to beat as the season approaches its final five races, yet Alonso is in no mood to concede advantage.

"I am reasonably confident to do a good race, if I don't crash, normally they are good for us," he said, adding his marque's traditionally supreme race pace will set him in good stead this afternoon.

"In the race there are many factors. In qualifying it's only about the quickest car to get pole position, in the race it's not only about the fastest car. You need to have a good strategy, good tyres, good pitstops, good start ... there are many things that can be involved and with those, in general, I think we are the strongest team. And thanks to these strengths we are leading the championship.

Alonso has been forced to retire from two of his past four races after first lap incidents and knows today could prove ruinous to his ambitions of a third drivers' title if he fails to finish again.

Whatever happens, Vettel will take the lead in the drivers' championship for the first time this season if he successfully repeats his Korean victory of 12 months ago. Resultantly, Alonso is focusing only on finishing ahead of the world champion.

"It's no surprise to see the two Red Bulls on the front row," he said. "But our aim is very simple: to finish ahead of Vettel. From now on, how many points you have overall will not count for much - it will be scoring one more than my closest rival that matters most.

"It could happen that I lose the lead in the championship and maybe arrive at the last race 24 points down, but what matters is to be first in the classification at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix. What edge does the Red Bull have? A quicker car, but we have the better team."

Teammate Felipe Massa starts directly behind Alonso on the grid in sixth alongside Romain Grosjean, the Lotus driver who wrecked Alonso's race in Belgium.

Ferrari's Brazilian is looking to continue the form that saw him collect his first podium in almost two years last week in Japan, but said he was not worried by Grosjean's proximity.

"I think he understands how he must behave," he said. "So I'm not particularly concerned."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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