BARCELONA, May 11, 2013 (AFP) - Fernando Alonso gave his stricken Ferrari technical director Pat Fry a good news bulletin on Saturday when he forecast he could still win his home Spanish Grand Prix despite starting from fifth on the grid.
The 31-year-old Spaniard said he was not surprised to miss out on pole or the front row after seeing Mercedes dominate qualifying, but added that he believed he could be much stronger in race trim.
That opinion was sure to encourage technical boss Fry who was rushed to hospital on Saturday for an appendix operation after falling ill and complaining of pains.
Fry was at first thought to be suffering from kidney stones. He was expected to undergo surgery later on Saturday and to be unavailable to work again this weekend.
Despite being quick in practice, Alonso was only able to qualify in fifth after which he said: "I think today was not a surprise for anyone in the team.
"We were three or fourth tenths off pole position in the last two or three Grands Prix, and here some people brought new parts so we are half a second off... We need to recover this half-second.
"Our car on one-lap pace is not as quick as the others, but on the long-run pace it's as quick as the others, or even better. That is our strong point and we need to take every opportunity that comes tomorrow. We need to be optimistic and try to be on the podium, or even something better.
"We have the car to do a good race."
Warned that it is almost unknown for a car that does not start on the front row to win, he said: "It is time to change that record.
"Every race is unique, but if you look at races in this championship, we see that Mercedes is struggling a lot in the races.
"So, Kimi and Sebastian may be more of a target for the race itself than the Mercedes guys, and also in the championship Sebastian is first and Kimi is second.
"It would be nice to finish the race in front of them. And I think if you finish in front of them, you will be very close to victory here."