SIlverstone, United Kingdom, July 9, 2011 (AFP) - Fernando Alonso praised his Ferrari team after securing second row on the grid for Sunday's British Grand Prix.
The 29-year old Spaniard's best lap time in Saturday qualifying was within 0.117 seconds of pole-sitter Australian Mark Webber. That was the closest Ferrari have come to matching the dominant qualifying pace of the red-hot Red Bulls which have snatched pole position at every race this season.
The double champion said he was delighted to have come so close to matching Webber's time.
"I am very happy, it is best qualifying in terms of the gap to pole position of the year," he said.
"We have been more or less averaging one second or seven tenths away and being here in Silverstone at a circuit that is not our preference, being one tenth from pole is good news for us."
Alonso played down talk that his car's improved performance relative to the Red Bulls' was a result of the FIA's controversial clampdown on exhaust blown diffusers.
These devices effectively limits the amount of extra downforce some teams can create from exhaust emissions.
Instead, Alonso suggested that it was simply down to the new upgrades that the Italian team brought with them to Silverstone.
He said: "I am not a technician but I guess (the improvement) is just for the new parts on the car.
"We have exhausts, diffuser and all these talks - we repeat 100 times... "We all lose performance with the new rules and we all lose more or less the same performance, maybe from three tenths to five tenths - but one team cannot lost 1.5 seconds and one team lose one tenth. It is not possible. "We are third and fourth now, the whole team did a good job - and we are more competitive."
Alonso will start Sunday's race at the Northamptonshire-based circuit in third alongside his Ferrari team-mate Brazilian Felipe Massa. Massa, 30, also believes his car's new parts have made a noticeable difference.
The Brazilian said: "I think it's a lot to do with the bits that we brought with us to this race. "The only place where we weren't competitive is on the hard tyres and we've brought new parts which give more downforce to the car and I think that was the key to make our car more competitive."