Under any other circumstances, pulling off a second place result in a touch and difficult grand Prix after starting form seventh place on the grid would be hailed as a huge success for any driver. But on Sunday, Fernando Alonso's podium celebrations were muted by the knowledge that it was one race closer to Sebastian Vettel locking up the world championship.

"Today's second place is like a victory for us, at the end of a difficult weekend on a track where it's very tricky to overtake," said Alonso after the race. "We did our job, which is maximise our car. We had two opportunities one was at the start when we recovered some places, and one was with strategy and we overtook Rosberg in the pits.

"At the start, I managed to pass four cars, helped by having watched the starts from previous races here, but then I couldn't pass Rosberg," he recalled. That status quo was overturned when Daniel Ricciardo crashed the Toro Rosso in turn 18 on lap 24 to bring out the safety car. While race leader Sebastian Vettel stayed out along with Nico Rosberg, Alonso made other plans.

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"The decision to pit when the Safety Car came out paid off, even if it wasn't easy to get to the finish with the tyres on the limit," he said, admitting that he had been helped by having a huge amount of time in hand over both Kimi Raikkonen and Mark Webber in the final laps that allowed him to drive a calm race and not overstress the worn tyres. "If I'd been in a group, it would have been like the end of a horror movie!" he laughed.

While Vettel pulled out a sufficient lead at the front to pit and get back out in the lead, Rosberg's own second stop dropping him well down the running order and allowed Alonso to claim an impressive second place. Yet despite that success, Vettel's victory means that the young German has succeeded in pulling even further away from Alonso in the title race.

"Now the gap to the championship leaders has increased," he said, adding that Vettel and Red Bull deserved be be congratulated for their undoubted accomplishments. "[But] we must be realistic, because to win the title now, we would need a lot of luck. Sure, we cannot think of giving up right now because if that luck does show up, then we will be there to take it.

"Sebastian keeps increasing the gap and we need to be realistic with that," he continued. "We have a 60-point deficit and a one second performance deficit in the car. If you put those two things together we need to be very, very lucky [to stand a chance of winning the title.]

"But if this luck comes they need to know that we will be there, because we will be in second to take the opportunities," he added.

"Until the outcome is a mathematical certainty, we will continue to push," agreed team principal Stefano Domenicali. "I don't think we could have picked up many more points today which all the same have strengthened - albeit only slightly - our position in the Constructors' Championship.

"We definitely have to be realistic about our chances, even if we have a duty to ourselves and those working in Maranello, to try and score as many points as possible, because we don't want to give up on doing well in both classifications," Domenicali added.

"We have seen how performance levels can change depending on the circuits and during the coming week we will prepare to tackle the Korea-Japan doubleheader in the best way possible," he said.

Alonso's team mate Felipe Massa didn't have such a successful day. Although he managed to maintain his starting position of sixth place at the chequered flag, it was still rather less than the Brazilian had been hoping for after his early duel with Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.

"After a fantastic start, at the first corner I found myself stuck inside the cars that had braked early and, at that point I lost places instead of making up some," he lamented. "From then on, I was always stuck behind other cars and we all know how hard it is to overtake at this track.

"When the Safety Car came out, we had two options: to fit the Medium tyres, with which we weren't sure to go all the way to the end, or the Supersofts, to try and regain some places," he continued. "We went for the second option, but di Resta was ahead of me on the same tyres and so I was stuck behind him.

"In the final stint after the third stop, I managed to retake sixth place, making the most of the fact that many were struggling with their tyres," he summed up. "It was tough from start to finish and I am very happy to have brought home a good points haul."