Fernando Alonso has admitted that he was lucky to be in position to take his second win of the year at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, claiming that small differences in qualifying and the race could have produced a very different story.

The Spaniard took advantage of the Lewis Hamilton-inspired melee at turn one to jump into second place, and then combined good race pace with a strategic request to his Renault pit crew to run with, and then pass, early leader Robert Kubica. However, he revealed that his good fortune had started even before race day.

Having been unlucky in qualifying in Singapore - albeit misfortune that he eventually used to his advantage when a radical gameplan coincided with the appearance of the safety car - Alonso admitted that the merest slip-up on his qualifying lap at Fuji could have led to a different outcome on race day. From fourth on the grid, however, he also had the good fortune to make the right moves at the start and avoid the chaos that removed Hamilton, Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen from immediate contention.

"Winning is never easy, they are always a combination of things," he explained, "Obviously, we were lucky to be in fourth place [in qualifying] because, with some milliseconds, we would have been fifth or sixth and maybe the race was very different.

"And then the first corner was the key part of the race because the McLarens and the Ferraris were off [the track] at turn one. After that, my race was with Robert. At this moment, I don't think the BMW is maybe as quick as before, but to have to beat Robert is maybe not easy."

Like Kubica, Alonso admitted to making a mistake in the rush to turn one but, unlike Hamilton and co, he wasn't to pay too heavy a price for it.

"The start was probably the most exciting part of the race, for sure," he conceded, "I saw the people in front of me going quite aggressively into turn one, and I, myself, locked the front tyres and went a little bit wide. But I think it surprised us in a way as, with the cold temperatures, most of us started with the prime tyres and then we locked the tyres and everybody went long. I took the benefit of that and put myself behind Robert and, from that point, the race was a little bit easier."

Although he could run behind Kubica quite comfortably, Alonso knew that he would need help to get past the Pole, and requested that his crew made his second stint shorter than originally planned, even if it would mean running the softer 'option' tyre for longer than intended.

"When I saw the action in front me [at turn one], everybody going straight, I backed off a little bit and Robert overtook me," the double world champion admitted, "After that, I was trying not to lose too much of a gap to Robert in the first stint.

"Obviously, we were P2 when we stopped for the first time, so I asked the team if we could manage to exit the pits in front of Robert because I wanted some free air in the second stint. They had to give me less fuel to do that, but the problem is you need to open a gap in the second stint. Sometimes you can do it, sometimes you can't, but the car was perfect and I was able to do it.

"We managed to have some free air, with no-one in front of us, the car was very nice to drive again and I pulled a nice gap, so maybe part of the victory was in the second stint. We did not know exactly how the soft tyres would perform in the last stint, so we needed as many seconds as possible to be comfortable."

Alonso admitted that tyres were of particular concern in Japan, with problems on both the prime and option rubber to contend with.

"I had three different problems," he revealed, "In the first stint, I had huge graining with the harder tyres, especially the front. I think the problem was running too close to Robert in the first three or four laps, and I damaged the tyres a little bit too much.

"In the second stint, I was lucky enough to exit the pits in front of him, so I had fresh air and the tyres worked perfectly okay but, again in the third stint, when we put on the soft tyres, we had graining, but we knew that. On Friday, we had problems with graining with the option tyre and, today, when we fitted the option, there was graining. But I think it was the same for Robert, so I think the gap stayed more or less the same."

Once out in front, Alonso was able to lap comfortably and still control the race, as Kubica fell into the clutches of the recovering Raikkonen, battling with the Finn as he tried to hold on to second spot.

"Obviously, when we are P1, there is a bit more stress for me and for the team, as you need to calculate what gaps you need in the pit-stop and what pace is good enough," Alonso revealed of his conversations with the Renault pit, "We keep talking, but everything was okay, especially the last 20 laps, after the second stop, when we saw that the gap was big enough and we managed to save a little bit of the engine for China. Everything was under control."