ABU DHABI, Nov 12, 2011 (AFP) - Spain's former two-time world champion Fernando Alonso hopes to make the most of the clean side of the grid with an electric start in Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Alonso qualified fifth for the eighth time this season and will start behind pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull, British pair Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button of McLaren and Australian Mark Webber in the second Red Bull.
At the tail end of a season which has been dominated by Germany's 11-time race winner Vettel, with the only other victories going to Hamilton (two), Button (three) and Alonso (one), the Spaniard was philosophical about his position for Sunday's race.
He said: "We're more or less where we expected to be - all year long, with a few exceptions, Red Bull and McLaren are stronger than us on Saturday, while on Sunday the situation is usually different, with the gaps between us being much closer."
Alonso, who won the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, stressed the importance of a good race start and believes he has the potential to finish on the podium.
"We know we can fight for the podium," he said, "but to succeed, we will have to do everything perfectly, beginning with the start and our strategy.
"I will start from the clean side of the track and hope I can make up some places. The first lap is a good window of opportunity."
Brazilian Felipe Massa qualified in sixth position, 0.6 seconds slower than Alonso. While the 30-year-old was left feeling underwhelmed by his performance he admitted he had not expected to be challenging for pole.
"To be honest, I hoped for more from this qualifying, I struggled more than expected to get the best out of the tyres on the first flying lap: maybe it would have been worth trying a longer run, with two attempts," said Massa.
"As expected, today McLaren and Red Bull showed they have the edge over us.
In the end, we are in the grid positions we can expect in this final part of the season."