Alonso upbeat about his chances in China (VIDEO)

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Fernando Alonso might not have qualified on the front two rows of the grid for tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix, but the Spaniard is pleased with his fifth place finish and believes that Ferrari has made a marked step forwards in recent weeks.

The team has made its worst start to the season since 2009, and this resulted in team principal Stefano Domenicali resigning from his position on Monday. However, Alonso is confident that he can fight to finish on the podium in China given the updates that have been put on the F14 T car.

“We definitely have improvements on the car,” he explained to NBCSN after qualifying. “We tested in Bahrain in the test and yesterday, and they seem to perform well. It seems to give us an extra performance that we did not have in the first three races.

“Tomorrow I hope that transforms into a good result in the race. We’re starting in a position that gives us the possibility to fight for the podium, starting fifth, so that’s the good news from today, but tomorrow we need to leave with a good result.”

Alonso also explained how the start that he makes to the race tomorrow will be key in giving him a chance to score Ferrari’s first podium finish of 2014.

Hartley says debut F1 point would be ‘a dream’ from last on grid

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Brendon Hartley says scoring a point on his Formula 1 debut would be “a dream” after being resigned to last place on the grid for the United States Grand Prix following an engine penalty.

Porsche factory driver Hartley was drafted in by Toro Rosso to replace Pierre Gasly for the USGP when the Frenchman was ruled out due to clashing commitments in Super Formula.

Despite having not driven an F1 car since 2012, Hartley came within one-tenth of a second of making it through to Q2 on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas, ultimately qualifying 18th.

“Obviously I’d love to be quicker but we knew we were starting at the back, so we put a lot of focus on long runs, getting the peak performance out of this Pirelli tire I didn’t get today,” Hartley told NBCSN after the race.

“In FP3 I had a good feeling. There’s a lot of quirky things to manage with these tires. Honestly I should be happy with how the weekend’s gone so far.”

The New Zealander will start last due to a 25-place grid penalty for changes made to his power unit ahead of practice on Friday, and is daring to dream of making the top 10 in his first race out of a sports car for more than five years.

“I don’t do the 24 hours completely alone!” Hartley joked. “It’s quick. It’s physical to drive. I’ll be happy to be done after an hour and a half.

“A point would be a dream starting from the back. If I can move forward and put a race together, I’ll be happy.”

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.