SEPANG, Malaysia (Reuters) - Fernando Alonso, a three times winner in Malaysia, was happy with fourth place on the starting grid on Saturday after steering his battered Ferrari through the rain.
The double Formula One world champion, winner of 32 races in his career, felt fortunate just to be on the second row after earlier colliding with Daniil Kvyat's Toro Rosso.
The crash in the second phase brought out a red flag and looked like it could be the end of qualifying for the Spaniard but his team managed to fix a broken left steering arm on his car in five minutes and get him back on the track.
"I'm so happy with this qualifying, it's probably the biggest smile for a fourth position in my career," Alonso told reporters.
"It was so chaotic, especially at the end with a car that was damaged.
"In the right hand corners I could move the steering wheel with one finger and in the lefts I could not even move it with two hands. In wet conditions was not the easiest way to drive the car.
"We managed to put the car out on the track to complete the laps and those laps were enough for fourth so we need to be very happy."
The incident with Russian rookie Kvyat was investigated by stewards after the Spaniard turned into the Toro Rosso driver who appeared to lock his wheels and slide into Alonso.
The ever increasing rain had made visibility difficult in the final stages on Saturday with Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes holding on for pole despite abandoning a final flying lap because he couldn't see in his mirrors.
Alonso said he didn't see Kvyat, who qualified 11th, and the two shook hands after the incident.
"Obviously it was an unfortunate situation, wrong place at the wrong moment," said Alonso.
"I didn't see him, that's the truth. I turned in and I only felt the hit, I didn't even see him before he hit my car.
"I didn't see a replay so I don't know where he was coming from, if he was late braking I don't know. For sure it was a surprise on the out-lap with these visibility conditions to have these kind of attacks."
The rain played havoc with Alonso's Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen, who had showed good pace in the three dry practice sessions on Friday and Saturday.
The Finn, though, struggled in the wet qualifying sessions and could be heard complaining about being given the wrong intermediate tyres as the rain became heavier as he only managed to qualify in sixth.