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.
"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.