Two-time F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso has described Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix as the 'hardest race of his life', with myriad difficulties conspiring to blunt his challenge - and an engine failure ultimately depriving him of any points at all just two laps from the chequered flag.

Already on the back foot following Ferrari's calamitous qualifying blunder that had left him down in 19th on the grid [see separate story - click here], Alonso then found himself with gearbox and clutch woes from the moment the lights went out. Stuck helplessly in a midfield train early on comprising both Scuderia Toro Rossos, fellow title-winner Jenson Button and team-mate Felipe Massa, a late pit-stop enabled the Spaniard to gain some ground and move into the points.

From there, the Oviedo native went on to duel heroically with Button, attempting on numerous occasions to find a way by his McLaren-Mercedes rival - but then almost within sight of the finish line, the engine in the back of his scarlet F10 let go in spectacular fashion, meaning that rather than going away with at least two points, Alonso would return home completely empty-handed.

Whilst Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali praised the 22-time grand prix-winner's indomitable fighting spirit in the face of adversity [see separate story - click here], the man himself conceded that all-round it had been a weekend to forget.

"It was a tough weekend," the 28-year-old told Spanish television. "From the start [of the race] things went wrong. On the formation lap my gearbox broke and I had no clutch during the race, so I had to brake in a weird way. I had to first gear down and then push the throttle hard so it would engage the gear for that corner.

"It was probably the hardest race of my whole life in terms of driving, because I had to improvise for every corner. Even so we were going to get a few points, which in the end was not possible because of the engine - but if the gearbox and then the engine are going to break, it's better that in happens when you are ninth than when you are leading and you lose 25 points."

The retirement means Alonso has now slipped from the head of the drivers' title chase to equal-second place with Red Bull Racing's Sepang winner Sebastian Vettel, two markers behind new leader Massa.