Fernando Alonso celebrates on the podium after finishing third in the Chinese Grand Prix. (Photo: LAT Photographic)

celebrates on the podium after finishing third in the Chinese Grand Prix. (Photo: LAT Photographic)

Fernando Alonso gave new Ferrari boss Marco Mattiacci the perfect welcome by taking a hard-earned third place in China, on a day when teammate Kimi Raikkonen finished a distant eighth.

It was Ferrari’s first podium finish of the season.

“It was a good weekend,” said Alonso. “We did improve the car a little bit compared to the first three races, so we felt more competitive and now in the race being here on the podium is some kind of surprise for us, a nice surprise finally. Happy with a podium finish today. I think I’m third in the drivers’ championship. So we didn’t have the start of the season that we would like but at the end of the day we’re still in the fight.”

Alonso said that various factors had contributed to Ferrari’s improved form.

“I think it was a combination [of things]. We brought new parts that feel a little more competitive – the car feels a little bit faster. We also tested in Bahrain, they felt OK and we confirmed that here. On the other hand, I personally have had an extremely good weekend, probably at the level of 2012 in terms of driving and feeling comfortable with the car, qualifying, Friday, today.

“In Bahrain, we were one minute behind the leaders, ninth and tenth and today we are on the podium, seven seconds behind Nico as I said, but Kimi’s one minute behind the leaders. Hopefully I can keep going like this. I felt more comfortable with the car and we will not give up.”

Alonso was lucky to survive a first corner clash with Felipe Massa.

“It was a big contact. I asked on the radio ‘can you check the car’, because it felt OK but I don’t know how it looks from the outside, but it was OK and we managed very lucky to finish the race and hopefully next one it will be a clean start.”

Regarding the next race in Spain he said: “We need to see. We need to remain very calm. It has been a very unique race, we make a step forward. We were ninth and tenth fifteen days ago and that was hard, pain a little bit. So, yeah, we need to remain calm. We are happy, we need to enjoy the result today but still a long way to go and we cannot promise anything for Barcelona. We will give 100 per cent again and we will fight – but in terms of result we need to remain very calm and see how development is these three weeks if we can bring some extra new parts for Barcelona.”

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