BUDAPEST, July 29, 2012 (AFP) - Fernando Alonso was surprised to extend his lead in the world title race despite finishing fifth in Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix.
The Ferrari driver, who celebrated his 31st birthday at the Hungaroring, could not match the pace of race-winner Lewis Hamilton in his upgraded McLaren and wound up fifth behind German Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull.
In spite of this, the ten points the Spaniard secured were enough to extend his lead in the drivers' standings - he now sits 40 points clear of nearest rival Australian Mark Webber of Red Bull, who finished eighth.
The double champion said he was amazed to have come away with such a positive result.
"Incredible again. Another very, very good Sunday for the championship," he said.
"I don't think we have been quick on Saturday or Sunday or on Friday and we still finished ahead of our main rivals, so it's been another Sunday that was better than expected.
"I think no one here thinks it's normal to finish ahead of a McLaren or a Red Bull, but we finished ahead of one of each, so it was better than expected, especially thanks to the strategy, because the cars that finished behind us made three stops. We made two and this time it was the right call
and it turned out well."
However, Alonso said Ferrari were under no illusions about the pace of their car and admitted they must improve their performance if he is to keep his lead in the title race.
"We have a lead of forty points, courtesy of a car that has not been the best in this first half of the season," he said.
"Now we must try and make a good leap forward in terms of performance to allow us to keep the lead in the Championship, because in the long term, what we have now will not be enough.
"If we are where we are, it's because we have always made the most of whatwe had and because of an excellent reliability record: it's not by chance that you get 23 consecutive points finishes."