He may not have won this time, but Fernando Alonso was no less impressive than he has been of late in the Chinese Grand Prix, maintaining his record as Formula 1's most successful driver around the Shanghai International Circuit to come home in fourth position – securing the same spot for Renault in the constructors' world championship in the process.
The Spaniard – buoyed by his two stand-out back-to-back victories in the unfancied R28 in Singapore and Japan – began the Chinese outing from fourth on the grid, and after being overtaken by McLaren-Mercedes' Heikki Kovalainen at the start, fought back to take advantage of an error by the Finn later around the opening lap and dive past again on the brakes into the final corner.
From there the former double F1 World Champion would run a somewhat lonely race, never under any real threat from behind but equally – a late charge apart – never close enough to put any great pressure on the two Ferraris ahead of him either.
Nonetheless, the five points he gained were enough to guarantee the Régie
will end the campaign in fourth spot in the constructors' title chase – despite Alonso's assertion earlier this season that the car was perhaps 'one of the worst' on the 2008 grid [see separate story – click here
] – and have also hauled him above his McLaren replacement Kovalainen into sixth position in the drivers' standings…a fact that will surely not be lost on the man from Oviedo.
“Fourth place is the best result that we could have hoped for today,” the 27-year-old underlined, “so I am therefore extremely satisfied with my race. We had good pace, close to the Ferrari, which is another reason to be pleased.
“We have now won the battle for fourth place in the constructors' championship, which was our objective, and so we can approach the Brazilian Grand Prix with confidence and aim to make the most of this final race of the year.”
Rookie team-mate Nelsinho Piquet also added to the Enstone-based outfit's tally with a consistent performance to grab the final marker for eighth spot, having featured as high as fifth at one point by dint of running a long opening stint from tenth on the grid.
What's more, the under-pressure Brazilian's fifth points finish of an at times troubled debut season in the top flight – and his fourth from the last eight races – builds on his Fuji performance and sees him travel to his home grand prix at Interlagos in a fortnight's time in positive spirits.
“It was a difficult race but I am happy with my performance,” the 23-year-old remarked. “Of course I would have liked to have made more progress through the field, but the end result is satisfying and I have scored an important point, which has helped the team finally confirm its fourth place in the constructors' championship.”
“It was a good race for us today,” agreed Renault managing director Flavio Briatore. “We were able to show our true level of performance – that we are stronger than BMW and very close to Ferrari. Our result means we have secured fourth place in the constructors' championship and confirmed our recent progress.”
“Another strong race for us today,” summarised the French concern's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds. “Points scored by our both drivers have now secured our fourth position in the championship, which was the target we set ourselves in the middle of the season.”