Fernando Alonso said he never believed he had much of a chance of fighting for victory in the Spanish Grand Prix, despite leading the early stages of the race.
The Spaniard jumped from fourth on the grid to move to the front of the pack at Barcelona, but fell down the order and off the pace when he switched to the prime tires at his third spot. He eventually finished a lap down in fifth place, but thinks his performance looked worse than it was simply because of his strong qualifying form and early position in the race.
"We were not quick enough," explained Alonso. "That is the main issue. Yesterday we should maybe qualify eighth and ninth, and 'unfortunately' I was fourth. Today, if you start the race eighth, you finish fifth, so it is a great result.
"We were out of position yesterday, it was a good lap, and we were out of position today because of the good start, so everything looks sad. But that is the way it is.
"We had a great start and found ourselves leading the race but not with the pace to lead the race, so step by step, lap by lap, you are losing ground. And then, at the end with hard tires, we were not competitive with them all weekend. And, unfortunately, anticipating the stops with the soft, we found ourselves for 40 percent of the race with the hard tire, which was a less competitive tire for us, so we were slow with the soft and very, very slow with the hard."
Even though Alonso kept his lead for the first stint of the race, he said he knew fairly early on that he was not going to be able to keep his advantage for the race.
"It was great, a great experience to lead the race for the first time this year, in front of my people. I enjoyed the first 20 laps of the race, even if there was a lot of pressure from behind. You have to use your strategy, your KERS, everything in the right place to defend the position and I enjoyed, I really enjoyed, those laps.
"But I was thinking in the pit stops there is nothing you can do, stop one lap early they will overtake you, if they stay out they will overtake you. The only possibility is stopping the same lap as they were doing but, because I had three or four cars behind me, you cannot do that with all the cars – so I had no big hopes for the winning."
Alonso said that his spectacular start, which saw him muscle to the front from fourth on the grid, was not particularly special.
"You try to do exactly the same thing every Sunday, it is the same procedure, the same preparation, the same tires – sometimes you get everything right so the reaction is right and you find your way into Turn 1.
"The clutch position with the engineers, they are OK, sometimes they are a little bit out. Barcelona offers you the opportunity of 600 meters of slipstream, so you can overtake thanks to that. A start like this at Monaco you keep fourth, so it was a combination of many things that makes the start very good."