MELBOURNE // Fernando Alonso was "more or less happy" to finish just off the podium in his Ferrari at the Australian Grand Prix after a poor start that left the Spaniard fighting tooth and nail for points.
Alonso, the 2005 and 2006 world champion, started fifth on the grid but found himself boxed in at the first corner at Albert Park after Vitaly Petrov, the Renault driver, made a barnstorming start that pushed McLaren's Jenson Button wide into his line.
"Petrov was risking a lot on turn one on the inside," Alonso told reporters in the paddock.
"So Jenson had to avoid Vitaly and I had to avoid Jenson, so it was a little bit of everything going on and we recovered well."
Having fallen back to eighth, Alonso thanked strategy for a fourth-place finish he felt the team had deserved after an underwhelming performance during qualification.
World champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing won the season-opener, with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton runner-up and Petrov third for his and Russia's first F1 podium.
"I think the strategy works really nice for us because we lost a lot of positions in the start," said Alonso.
"Thanks to the two or three (pit) stops we were out of traffic and we used all the potential. We started fifth and finished fourth, more or less happy.
"I think without the incident at the start the final position would have been more or less the same because I think Vettel and Hamilton were too quick for us today."
While finishing some 32 seconds behind Vettel, Alonso was relieved the Ferrari car had performed as well as it had after being well off the pace in qualifying.
"It was much better. Yesterday was a little bit ... something that we didn't understand completely," he said.
"Red Bull looked two seconds quicker than us yesterday, without pace they should lap us two times in the race today and it was not the case, we were fighting with Webber the whole race," added Alonso, referring to the Australian Red Bull driver.
Alonso's teammate Felipe Massa started eighth on the grid but finished ninth after a fierce battle with Button that saw the Briton given a drive-through penalty for blocking the Brazilian at a corner.
Massa's two points gave Ferrari 14 in the constructor's championship to lie fourth behind Red Bull, McLaren and Renault.
"Today was much more normal [than yesterday] but we must improve for Sepang [in Malaysia in two weeks], we need to be much quicker than we were in Melbourne," said Alonso.
"With the Red Bull we know they will be contenders until the end but we need to make a reaction and starting from Sepang we need to be on the podium."