SINGAPORE - Formula One championship leader Fernando Alonso was happy with his third-place finish at the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday despite seeing his advantage cut to 29 points over race winner Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel inherited the race lead from pole sitter Lewis Hamilton after the Briton retired with a gearbox failure and the German held off the other McLaren of Jenson Button and Alonso's Ferrari to reignite his hopes of a third straight title.
Alonso has made a habit of converting poor qualifying positions into big points this season to forge ahead of the field and the double world champion was able to draw on his experience to achieve another strong result in Singapore.
"It was the best I could hope for as we were not very competitive this weekend in terms of pace," Alonso told reporters after recording his 81st podium in Formula One, putting him third on the all-time list in that category.
"But we qualified well, which was the best part of the weekend. If you are stuck at the rear of the race then you have a lot of problems," he added.
"It was a very positive weekend. We only lost points to one of our major contenders which is good considering we are not quick enough."
Looking ahead to the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka on October 7, Alonso is hoping for an improved performance in qualifying to stay ahead of his rivals with just six rounds remaining in the 20-race season.
"It's a little bit difficult to predict as it has been a year of ups and downs for all the teams. Here we (Ferrari) could only qualify fifth and 13th which is not what we are hoping for," he said.
"We need to do better at Suzuka, it is similar to Silverstone where we did well, so we're hoping for an improved performance."
Alonso's team mate Felipe Massa continues to be the subject of speculation concerning his future at the Italian team and the Brazilian had an eventful race, dropping from 13th to last on the first lap before fighting back to finish eighth.
His battle with fellow Brazilian Bruno Senna after the second safety car restart was a highlight of the race but Massa was unhappy with his compatriot, who almost pushed him into the barriers at Turn 13.
"I think that was really not nice because I was already alongside and he pushed over to my car and wedged me into the wall," Massa said.
"Fortunately nothing happened to my car and I'm a little bit more calm now."
Massa was forced to pit on the first lap but a patient drive enabled him to score valuable points in his quest to hold on to his seat.
"It was a puncture because someone touched me," Massa added. "It's unfortunate but the car today was fantastic.
"I was so happy with the car and the pace and how I was driving today. Even starting 13th, it was a race where we could have finished in the top five with both cars.
"I'm happy with my race but not with what happened at the first corner, but it's true that starting near the back it's more likely this can happen." (Editing by Patrick Johnston)