F1: Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo thanks Fernando Alonso after victory at the Chinese Grand Prix

Spaniard won his 31st Grand Prix

Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo has thanked Fernando Alonso for proving his confidence ahead of yesterday's Chinese Grand Prix was not misplaced.

For the 31st time in his Formula One career, and for the second time in China, Alonso took the chequered flag to ignite his title hopes for this season.

The double world champion, who has twice in the last three years missed out on a third crown by a few points to Sebastian Vettel, conjured what he described as "a perfect Sunday".

It was in stark contrast to three weeks ago when Alonso crashed out after running over his own front wing that had earlier in the race been knocked askew when he ran into Vettel.

Yesterday's victory, one that elevates Alonso up to fourth on the all-time winners' list alongside Nigel Mansell, means the Spaniard has closed the gap to Vettel to nine points.

Hailing the performance of his driver and team, Di Montezemolo said: "I was very confident going into this race.

"Now I am very happy, especially for (team principal Stefano) Domenicali and for everyone in the Scuderia who has worked so hard at the track and in Maranello as they really deserve this victory.

"Fernando drove a great race. Winning in China is very satisfying for Ferrari and it is also a source of great pride in Italian technology.

"Now we go on, but with our feet firmly on the ground."

It was an unusual, and at times confusing race, given the top seven drivers all started on the soft, but rapidly-degrading Pirelli tyre, whilst the six behind were on the medium, longer-lasting compound.

It resulted in a plethora of pit stops throughout the race and an array of leaders at different stages before Alonso's flawless drive saw him home ahead of Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes and Vettel.

Alonso said: "The team did a perfect job with the set-up of the car for quali and the race, with perfect pit-stop times and the way they were executed.

"The victory is a good reward for the team, and well deserved after the disappointment in Malaysia. It feels great.

"With the two races we have finished this year, with a second place (in Australia) and the victory here, the start of this campaign is looking good. We are very optimistic."

Raikkonen trails Vettel by three points, with Hamilton 12 down after slipping from pole to third, but nevertheless still happy.

"The guys did a great job over the weekend to get us where we were - on pole and finishing third," said Hamilton.

"We got the absolute most out of the car we had and that's very satisfying, but we're not quite there yet in terms of overall pace.

"I'm not really sure where we're losing out, but everyone is working so hard and I know we can do it."

Jenson Button finished a creditable fifth given the still ongoing limitations of his McLaren, with Paul Di Resta eighth in his Force India and Marsussia's Max Chilton 17th.

Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez, who rear-ended Force India's Adrian Sutil on lap 16 that forced both into retirement, has been handed a five-place grid penalty for this Sunday's race in Bahrain.

Red Bull's Mark Webber will serve a three-place penalty for running into Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne, forcing a pit stop which saw Webber retire a lap later after the right-rear wheel came off.

PA

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