MARCH 16, 2014
Cautious Alonso targets mere Melbourne finish
A cautious Fernando Alonso is hoping simply to finish Sunday's Australian grand prix.
The Spaniard, with high hopes of finally winning a title in his fifth year at Ferrari, qualified in his now seemingly customary fifth position as the 2014 season began.
"Fifth is our natural position right now," he told Spanish-speaking reporters late on Saturday.
"I have not done much better or much worse than in other previous sessions.
"As for the rain, I don't think the car was better or worse -- fifth position is what we deserve," the two-time world champion added.
For the race, Alonso said he is simply hoping to see the chequered flag.
"It sounds pessimistic or unattractive or very cautious," he said, "but after the winter testing, I think everyone would sign just to finish the race."
But surely he would prefer to finish on the podium?
"I don't know, I really do not know how competitive the car is," said Alonso, "but if we have no problems then it (a podium) should be possible.
"But anything can happen with the fuel, the batteries, the tyres -- this year there are so many variables."
Alonso said he thinks the Mercedes and McLaren cars qualified higher than him on Saturday because they are better for the moment, but he is not sure about Red Bull, whose Daniel Ricciardo will start Sunday's race from second place.
"Red Bull did not finish any race simulations in pre-season testing," he said, "so I think we should finish ahead of them."
More broadly, Alonso said it is clear that in his fifth consecutive campaign with Ferrari, he wants to finally win the title in 2014.
"I have been often the championship runner-up and nobody wants that," he told Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
"But on the other hand, I have had the best four years of my life.
"My personal performance has never been so good, sometimes perfect and against very strong opponents. That gives me the same satisfaction as if I had won the world title."
Some, however - even his friend Mark Webber - have predicted that 2014 is make-or-break for Alonso before his patience with Ferrari finally runs out.
Alonso replied: "I'm a Ferrari driver, sitting here in a red suit. It is nonsense to talk about me leaving the team if I win or lose.
"I have a long-term contract and I repeat that the last years were for me the best years of my career and my life.
"If things had gone a bit better and with a bit of luck, I would have won the title four or five times, but the past is history."