He took his turn at the head of the field in the Hungarian Grand Prix, but Fernando Alonso admitted that ultimately finishing second still felt like a win.
The Spaniard found himself in a tense three-way battle for the lead with ten laps to go, defending from Lewis Hamilton and a charging Daniel Ricciardo, but the Red Bull man was on fresher tyres and comfortably despatched both champions in his way. Alonso then had to defend from Hamilton, and their scrap allowed Nico Rosberg to close in.
Despite reporting that his tyres were worn well beyond being competitive, Alonso somehow kept both Mercedes at bay to claim second spot, his best result of a difficult season so far.
“It means a lot as we've had some tough races,” the Ferrari veteran admitted, “To see one Ferrari on the podium is the best news, and we took the opportunity today after a difficult race.”
A torrential downpour 60 minutes ahead of the start caused much head-scratching amongst the teams, but all drivers ultimately started on Pirelli's intermediate tyre before switching to one of the slick compounds as a safety car presented an ideal opportunity to stop in the pits. Alonso, who had made a great start to be running in the top four from fifth on the grid, had to wait a lap longer than those behind him as the leading quartet were already passed pit entry when the safety car appeared, but nevertheless found himself back at the front as the various strategies played out.
“Unfortunately, the first safety car went out when we were in the last corner, so we missed the opportunity to stop and lost a couple of places,” he confirmed, “Then we had to attack and overtake a couple of people.
“It was definitely was a surprise to find out that I was leading the race when Ricciardo and [Felipe] Massa pitted, so we said let's give our maximum for three of four laps to open a gap before we stop and then see if we are in the fight. Then we realised there were not so many laps to the end and it was a difficult call whether to stop and try to push to finish fourth, or keep going and risk going over the cliff on tyres and finishing fourth of fifth or whatever.
“We really needed these points and defended the position as much as we could. I think we took the right decision to stay out and defend the position and second place tastes like a victory to us.”
Despite the result, which helped lift Ferrari back above Williams in the constructors' standings, Alonso insists that it doesn't change much regarding the Scuderia's season.
“Today we had a bit of a [unusual] race and took the opportunity that we had in front of us,” he reasoned, “I think the cars behind us had some issues - Rosberg, Hamilton yesterday in qualifying, Hulkenberg in the last corner today - so we took benefit from this and secured some very good points for the team.”