Sport : F1

Ferrari chief hails Alonso

20th December 2012, 07:47pm

Alonso: Lost out to Vettel by just three points

Alonso: Lost out to Vettel by just three points

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo reflected on a season of "great regret", but one which has left him hailing Fernando Alonso as a combination of Niki Lauda and Michael Schumacher.

Ferrari finished runners-up in the drivers' and constructors' championships behind Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull as both clinched their third successive titles.

Alonso finished just three points adrift of Vettel, two years after finishing four shy of the 25-year-old German.

The Spaniard's hopes were wrecked by first-corner accidents in Belgium and Japan, while Vettel's car proved bulletproof in the final race of the year in Brazil, when he was also involved in a lap-one incident only to recover to claim the sixth place that proved enough to retain his crown.

In his annual end-of-season address, Di Montezemolo said: "You can see the glass as half full or half empty, but clearly there is great regret.

"Because the outcome went down to the wire, because after that first lap in Brazil maybe things could have turned out differently.

"Because Fernando went on holiday at the start of the summer break with a 40-point lead over his closest challenger and because, when it came to collisions we were forced to retire, while others kept going as if nothing had happened.

"However, the biggest regret is we did not have a car that was quick enough to win the world championship."

Ferrari were found wanting at the start of the campaign and although they recovered, Alonso did not win a race in the second half of the season after his success in Germany.

However, the 31-year-old performed wonders in a car that was far from the equal of Red Bull and McLaren.

Di Montezemolo added: "On the glass half full side, we had amazing reliability which allowed us to come second in the constructors' championship despite the fact McLaren was quicker than us and despite the fact that, in the first half of the season, we pretty much only had Alonso's points to count on.

"There were those great starts and pit stops and the fact Fernando had an extraordinary season, the best since he has been in Formula One.

"The Spaniard is a mix of Lauda and Schumacher; like the former he has the ability to drive every race lap as though it was qualifying, like the latter he has the intelligence to know when it's time to push and when it's time to look after the car.

"Next year, let's hope we can say it was our best season, given that we want to give him and Felipe (Massa) a car that's competitive right from the start.

"Again this season we were contenders. We must start from this positive point. If we succeed and improve our performance then we can be winners."

Ferrari almost ditched Massa following a miserable start to the season in which he collected just 11 points from the first eight races and 25 from 11.

They eventually decided to keep faith with the Brazilian for 2013 as he finally showed flashes of his former self late on.

Di Montezemolo said: "The Brazilian improved a great deal in the second half. In the first part it seemed he'd gone on a round-the-world holiday!

"Joking apart, the decision to reconfirm his position was the right one. If we had changed, then one would need to take on someone who would make a difference, and I can't say I noticed many drivers around who would be quicker than Felipe.

"Also, we did not want to change the balance and the good atmosphere within the team. (Team principal Stefano) Domenicali and I told ourselves it was best to wait and I think the facts proved us right.

"Towards the end, when Felipe was even faster than Fernando a couple of times, the points he scored played a vital part in securing our place in the constructors' championship."

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