Fernando Alonso said he has “no illusions” about his prospects in the Formula One championship despite ending a 12-race drought with an authoritative victory at the Chinese Grand Prix.

The dozen races without a win was the Ferrari driver’s longest barren period since his winless 2009 season, and represented a sharp change of fortunes after a Did-Not-Finish result at the previous race in Malaysia.

“It couldn’t have gone better than this today,” Alonso said after Sunday’s race. “This has a special feeling because it was a tricky race full of action.

“Along with the second place I got in Australia, this result shows that the car is competitive and that we are working in the right direction to always be in the fight for the podium.”

The Spanish driver said he had “pace in his pocket”, which he kept in reserve, yet still drove away to a comfortable 10-second victory margin over Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton clung on for third, just two-tenths of a second ahead of Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull.

The comfortable nature of the win raised Ferrari’s hopes of taking its first drivers’ championship since 2007, particularly with the next race coming this weekend in Bahrain, giving rival teams no chance to introduce any significant aerodynamic upgrades in the meantime.

“With no one dominating the championship, it makes it extremely interesting, even if we are aware this is only the third race,” Alonso said. “We are under no illusions and we must continue to concentrate and do all we can to improve still further.”

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