SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Fernando Alonso recognized the Formula One title battle was effectively over on Sunday after his skill and a calculated gamble with the tires were still no match for championship leader Sebastian Vettel at the Singapore Grand Prix.
The Spaniard did all he could around the Marina Bay Street Circuit, jumping from seventh on the grid to finish second to the Red Bull driver who increased his lead to 60 points with six races remaining.
Alonso said second place had felt like victory in a car that was two seconds slower than the one driven by his dominant German rival, who looks sure to take a fourth title in succession.
“We have to be realistic, few races to go already and the gap is still increasing every weekend and is now 60 points. We need to be honest with ourselves,” the 32-year-old double champion told reporters.
“We need a lot of luck. We don’t need (it just) in Korea, we need luck in Korea, Japan, India, Abu Dhabi. We need luck every weekend as we are one second of the pace.”
Asked what he and his Ferrari team can do to reign in the lightning quick Red Bulls, Alonso was honest.
“Nothing we can do,” he said.
”Obviously we try our maximum, we try to improve the car every race and we are doing that but obviously not enough compared to the opponents, they are doing a better job than us every weekend, they are fantastic every weekend, they are winning and they deserve those wins.
“The best one wins and we are not the best ones at the moment and we will keep working.”
Vettel’s victory was his third consecutive this season and seventh in 13 races. Alonso hoped that a raft of changes in 2014, including new V6 power units, could help bridge the gap.
“We start from zero next year, completely from zero, a big change in regulations, so it is our best opportunity to close the gap,” the former Renault and McLaren driver said optimistically.
“We will put all our effort in to 2014 hopes as that is our best opportunity to close the gap with the top teams.”
Alonso said a change with the tires, with Pirelli reviving their 2012 structure at the German Grand Prix in July after a series of blowouts at Silverstone, had been the turning point in the season as the gap with Vettel grew.
However it was the Spaniard’s ability to manage those tires that were behind his second place finish on Sunday as he completed 36 laps on mediums, having pitted when the safety car came out on lap 26.
“We didn’t know exactly how long the tires would survive, we were maybe not expecting that long but we are 60 points behind the championship - if it works ‘OK’ if it doesn’t work maybe we don’t finish second we finish fourth or fifth and it is nothing really,” he said.
“We were again too slow this weekend we were not at a level we should be, so we tried different things and it paid off at the end with a fantastic second place for us which tastes like a victory.”
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali praised the efforts of the Spaniard, who will be joined by 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen at the Italian team next season.
“We knew that the last laps were possibly very marginal because the tire wear was supposed to be close to the cliff three laps before the end,” he said.
“It was good because at the end we managed very well the tires and congratulations to Fernando, he did a great race.”
Reporting by Patrick Johnston, editing by Alan Baldwin