SEPANG, Malaysia, March 24, 2013 (AFP) - Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was left to rue a costly miscalculation in Malaysia after he was forced to retire on the second lap of his 200th grand prix on Sunday.
Alonso's front wing was damaged in the opening turns by a minor collision with Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, but instead of pitting for repairs he ploughed on -- with the wing collapsing shortly afterwards and jamming under his front wheels.
The result left the Spaniard trailing eventual winner Vettel by 22 points in the early championship race as he bids for his long-awaited third world championship, after victories in 2005 and 2006 following his debut in 2001.
"We touched with the front wing the car of Sebastian; it was a very, very small touch but enough to damage the front wing a lot so it's extremely bad luck in my opinion," Alonso said.
"Then we were constantly talking on the radio in the first lap, the car felt OK in the first two sectors and from the television the team saw damage on the front wing. But we knew that in lap three of four we would switch to dry tyres so if we could make it to that lap we would save maybe 20 seconds or 30 seconds in the race.
"At that point we said 'at the moment everything looks OK', you don't have the front wing performance that you'd expect but we'd see how the problem would develop and then make a decision. Unfortunately on the back straight the front wing dropped and we started to see some sparks on the floor and some more damage, but at that point we were five seconds before the pit entry and we didn't make it. Then in the next straight the wing fell off and it was underneath the car and it was not possible to turn.
"Looking now after the incident for sure it is the wrong decision (to stay on the track)... if this unlucky combination had not happened, and in lap three we stop, we change the tyre and the nose and we win the race here, the team are heroes.
"A lot of circumstances went in the wrong way... today we had a good car, and I don't think we were too far from the Red Bull pace, especially in the race." Concluded the Spaniard.