• Malaysian Grand Prix - Qualifying

Alonso welcomes Massa's competitiveness

ESPN Staff
March 23, 2013 « Hamilton disappointed to miss out on pole | Rosberg still confident against Hamilton »
Fernando Alonso qualified third behind team-mate Felipe Massa © Sutton Images
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Fernando Alonso believes it is positive for Ferrari to have Felipe Massa putting up a strong fight against him in qualifying after he was out-qualified by his team-mate for the fourth race in a row.

At the last two rounds of 2012 Massa was faster than Alonso in qualifying and at the start of this year he has started ahead of his team-mate on the grid at the first two races. Previously in 2012 Massa struggled to match the pace of his team-mate, but despite the danger of the Brazilian taking points off him, Alonso welcomes the competition.

"It's not the first time that we have very close competition and it was very close over the last three years as well, although I know for you [the media] it was not that close," he said. "Felipe had some bad luck, incidents and mechanical problems but in fact he was much closer than he looked in the points at the end of the year.

"This year it is again very close - no big difference - and maybe a bit closer at the last few races as I am behind on the grid. But so far on Saturday there are no points so we will keep working for Sunday. It's the best news for the team and we need to have competition between the two drivers in the team and share information. I think now all the data that we have from free practice and qualifying is very useful to compare and make yourself better. This is only good news for the team and we will push ourselves to the limit."

Speaking before the news broke that Kimi Raikkonen would face a three-place grid penalty for Sunday, Alonso tipped the Lotus driver as one to watch in the race and said grid places were not as important as strategy.

"The first lap position is not very important and we have a good race pace, as I think Kimi and Lotus have, I think they will arrive sooner or later in the race and they will put some pressure on us. We need to be very calm and Kimi started fantastically well in the race in Melbourne and has looked very strong here. The race for the championship is very long as well and it's not only Kimi fighting for the championship. At the moment it is very close with Red Bull very strong, Mercedes very strong. Nico's time in Q2 was very impressive so there are four or five teams at the moment who are in the mix."