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.