Fernando Alonso welcomed the boost to his championship chances handed to him by team-mate Lewis Hamilton's first non-finish of the season, but insisted that he still had a hard task ahead if he was to take a third title.

The Spaniard did not appear to have anything for Hamilton in the time they were both on track, as the Briton pulled away at the head of the field, with Alonso mired back in fourth, unable to get by Felipe Massa. All four leaders remained on wearing intermediate tyres at their first pit-stop, but Hamilton's rubber was showing greater signs of distress than his rivals.

No sooner had Kimi Raikkonen passed the Briton than Hamilton opted to pit, but a mistake on the wetter pit-lane entry saw the rookie sail into the adjacent gravel trap. Unable to rejoin, he posted his first retirement of the season, allowing Raikkonen and Alonso - now first and second - to claw back vital points and take the title fight to Brazil in two weeks' time.

Hamilton maintained his lead in the drivers' championship, but now holds a mere four-point advantage over Alonso with one race remaining, but the Spaniard insists that he still has a hill - if not quite a mountain - to climb at Interlagos.

"Today was a very good result for me," he admitted, "[but], although this result is a boost to my chances in the championship, it is still not going to be easy. However, I will not be giving up until the chequered flag in two weeks' time."

Alonso reckoned that he could have challenged Raikkonen for the win - a result that would have taken him to within two points of his team-mate - had his attempt to pass Massa around the outside of turn one on the opening lap come off.

"I had a battle with Felipe at the start but, unfortunately, I was not able to finish the first lap in front of him," he reflected, "As a result, I lost a lot of time behind him in the first stint because there was a loss of downforce when following him in the high-speed corners. It was also difficult towards the end on the wet Bridgestone tyres, as they were practically slick, but we stayed out as long as possible to get through the final shower. That was the right decision as I was able to come out ahead of Felipe on my final stop."