As a tough weekend for the world championship contender and his team continued, Alonso saw his initial provisional fourth place in the Yas Marina starting line-up become seventh as others improved. His Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa is only ninth.
Alonso's title rival Sebastian Vettel, who currently holds a 13-point lead with three rounds remaining in the 2012 Formula 1 title race, starts third.
"I think we were not competitive today, but myself, personally, I'm happy with the performance in qualifying," said Alonso.
"We extracted the maximum from the car.
"I did a 1:41.5 in Q2, a 1:41.5 on my first lap in Q3 and a 1m41.5s on my second lap in Q3. I think I could do the lap 100 times and do a 1:41.5 each time because that was the maximum today.
"Unfortunately there were six people faster than us."
Having progressed from fifth on the grid to second in last weekend's Indian GP, Alonso is optimistic he will gain ground in the Abu Dhabi race as well.
"Normally the pace improves on Sunday so I hope that will be the case," he said.