Fernando Alonso has dismissed Ferrari?s disappointing qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix as resulting from a conservative approach to the start of the Formula One season and expects the team to challenge in Sunday?s race.

Alonso qualified fifth on Saturday and teammate Felipe Massa eighth, a result that ran contrary to high expectations entering this weekend after a good off-season of testing.

?Clearly we can?t be happy with this result, but we must not immediately make a drama out of it,? Alonso said. ?We definitely didn?t get the most out of the car, and we have to understand the reasons for that.?

The two-time world champion said Ferrari took a ?very conservative approach? to qualifying.

?We knew if we took a big risk we may be fourth, if we are safe, we go fifth or sixth, so no need to take risks in the first qualifying of the season,? he said.

The Spaniard also said there was a reduced importance of qualifying due to the number of pit stops this season.

?Fifth place on the grid is not too bad and it means I?m in a position to fight for a podium finish in a race that is still wide open,? Alonso said.

The introduction of Pirelli tires, which have been designed to degrade faster, means all drivers are expected to pit at least three times for fresh rubber. That means the race will largely be decided by the timing of the pit stops and the ability to make the tires last longer rather than early track position established by qualifying.

?Overall grip was where we lacked,? the two-time world champion said. ?We were not so bad yesterday, so we missed something today.?

Ferrari must also be concerned at the 1.4 second gap between the qualifying time of pole sitter Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull and that of Alonso, particularly given Vettel did not use the KERS power boost system on his pole-setting lap.

?Position we are happy, distance from pole we are not happy,? Alonso said. ?So we need to look at that overnight.

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