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FORMULA 1

Alonso happy to limit Singapore swing

Vettel cuts gap in championship as Spaniard finishes third

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Fernando Alonso (right) sprays race winner Sebastian Vettel to Jenson Button’s amusement.

Formula 1 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 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. The best news for the Spaniard was the retirement of the man who had dominated from his pole position, Hamilton, as the McLaren driver had begun to make inroads into the two-time champion’s lead with two wins in the previous three races.

For his part, Alonso has made a habit of converting mediocre qualifying positions into big points this season to forge ahead of the field and the Ferrari man was able to draw on his experience to achieve another strong result after starting fifth on the grid 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 finish in Formula 1, putting him third on the all-time list in that category.

“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,” the Asturian added. 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 mammoth 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 [at Ferrari] could only qualify fifth and 13th which is not what we are hoping for,” he said in reference to his and stable mate Felipe Massa’s grid positions.

“We need to do better at Suzuka, it is similar to Silverstone where we did well, so we’re hoping for an improved performance.”

For much of the race Alonso was engaged in a close battle for third with Williams’ Pastor Maldonado, which ended when the Venezuelan was forced out with a hydraulics problem.