|© AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano
Ferrari must improve its car to be able to contend for the Formula 1 title again next season, according to Fernando Alonso.
Alonso said he needed the best season of his career to stay in the hunt until the final race, but still came lost the title to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel by three points after finishing second at the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday.
"I think we have the best team in terms of approaching the races, preparing the races," Alonso said. "Zero mechanical problems, zero problems for the year, good pit stops, good starts, good strategy ... but we were too slow."
The two-time world champion said Ferrari never had the pace to stay close to its competitors throughout the year.
"We were behind the Red Bulls, behind the McLarens, and now in the last couple of Grands Prix, behind Williams, Force India," Alonso said. "We were clearly slower than them in pace. So this is something we must improve next year because we cannot fight for a world championship if we are too slow."
The 31-year-old Spaniard said the team was fortunate to still be in the hunt by the final race.
"We can be a little bit slower but not that much," he said. "And this year it was something strange, combinations that allowed us to fight until the end but I'm not sure we'll be this lucky in the future."
Alonso stayed atop the standings during most of the season after picking up all of his three wins by the German GP in July. He was consistent the rest of the year, reaching the podium in seven of the final eight races.
"Apart from the competitiveness of the car, if I repeat the 20 races, it would be difficult to do anything different of what we did because everything was so good for me," Alonso said.
He started seventh at Interlagos having to overcome a 13-point deficit to Vettel. He moved to fifth after the first corner and eventually finished second to Jenson Button of McLaren, but he would have needed the victory after Vettel recovered from a first-lap crash to cross the line in sixth place and secure the title.
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said he knows Alonso deserves a better car in 2013.
"We cannot ignore the fact we were unable to give him and Felipe a quicker car, especially at the start of the season," he said. "Our main aim for 2013 should be precisely that of giving our drivers the equipment with which they can win immediately. We owe our drivers and we want to wipe out that debt as soon as possible."
Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo agreed.
"We must immediately concentrate on next season, because, right from the start, we must have a car that is competitive at the highest level," he said.
Alonso said it will be crucial to have a "quicker car," but having the same team effort will be just as important.
"Most of all I'd like to see the same effort and professionalism the team displayed when it reacted to our initial difficulties," he said. "Even if maybe we didn't manage to reach the performance level of the best, everyone demonstrated total dedication."