Fernando Alonso's 'perfect day' at Chinese Formula 1 Grand Prix
Fernando Alonso delivered a perfect performance for Ferrari in China to thrust himself firmly back into the World Championship battle.
The Spaniard had few challengers on a day when Sebastian Vettel ran out of kilter on tyre choice -- along with his main rivals -- and had to settle for a valiant fourth place.
It was Alonso's 31st grand prix triumph and one of the sweetest after his recent retirement early in the Malaysian GP.
"Definitely this was a fantastic race for us, the perfect Sunday with no problems," he smiled.
"We were able to manage the gap to the guys behind, but it was not so easy to understand the race at times as we were overtaking the McLarens and Sebastian, as they were running different tyre strategies. There were moments when we had to manage all that, but the team did a perfect job."
After making a great start, Alonso took the lead from Lewis Hamilton, the first Englishman to take pole position for Mercedes since Stirling Moss, on lap five.
Later Alonso overtook Vettel for the lead on the 31st lap and for the rest of the race he simply had to keep up his rhythm.
For second-placed Kimi Raikkonen, Hamilton, who finished third, and Vettel, things were much less relaxed.
The Finn's race was compromised by a horrible start, in which he fell from second to fourth at the end of the opening lap. Then he had a collision with the McLaren driver Sergio Perez on the 16th lap, which damaged the nose of his Lotus.
"I got a good run at him through turn three and then after the kink I went round the outside of him in turn four," said Raikkonen.
"He moved over and put me on the grass. I tried to avoid him but couldn't because I was right there alongside him, so we crashed. The kerb saved me and gave me the grip I needed to keep going."
Over the radio the normally implacable Finn was heard to yell: "What the hell is he doing?" Surprisingly, his car did not lose too much performance and he was able to contain Hamilton's continual challenge to the flag," said Raikkonen.
"There's no way to tell how much it affected us. Obviously, the car was not designed like that, so it wasn't something that helped us
"I was surprised how good the car still was with quite a lot of damage."
Hamilton could tell you afterwards what every inch of the Lotus looked like. He managed to keep ahead of Raikkonen all the way through to the final pit stops, but after making his own stop on the 37th lap he could not help dropping behind the black and gold car.
He never let up under increasing pressure as he chased it home. At the same time, he was under increasing pressure himself from Vettel.
"I'm really happy with today's result, which is great for the team," said Hamilton.
"It was a good race for me. I'd love to have won, but I'm quite happy with third. The other guys were a bit too fast for us today.
"I kept applying a little bit of pressure to Kimi, but I couldn't get close enough to overtake and then I was a bit unlucky with traffic.
"We're not quite there, and I'm not really sure where we are losing out.
"Today the overall pace was not there, and definitely there are a couple areas we can focus on.
"We just need to keep bringing aerodynamic updates and to keep improving."
Leading Positions (56 Laps): 1 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 1hr 36mins 26.945secs, 2 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Lotus F1 Team 1:36:37.113, 3 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:36:39.267, 4 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1:36:39.470, 5 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 1:37:02.230, 6 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:37:07.772, 7 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:37:09.636, 8 Paul di Resta (Gbr) Force India 1:37:18.029, 9 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Lotus F1 Team 1:37:20.368, 10 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Sauber-Ferrari 1:37:23.543.
World Championship Standings (Drivers): 1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 52pts, 2 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Lotus F1 Team 49, 3 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 43, 4 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 40, 5 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 30, 6 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 26, 7 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 12, 8 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 12, 9 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Lotus F1 Team 11, 10 Paul di Resta (Gbr) Force India 8, 11 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 6, 12 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India 6, 13 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Sauber-Ferrari 5, 14 Sergio Perez (Mex) McLaren 2, 15 Jean-Eric Vergne (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Manufacturers: 1 Red Bull 78pts, 2 Ferrari 73, 3 Lotus F1 Team 60, 4 Mercedes GP 52, 5 McLaren 14, 6 Force India 14, 7 Scuderia Toro Rosso 7, 8 Sauber-Ferrari 5.