Fernando Alonso praises Sebastian Vettel's title and says Ferrari must step up
Spaniard's challenge officially ends with point-less Indian GP
By James Galloway in Greater Noida. Last Updated: 27/10/13 3:12pm
Fernando Alonso has paid tribute to Sebastian Vettel's "very, very strong season" and said Ferrari need to use confirmation of Red Bull's fourth successive title double as a cue to redouble their efforts for next season.
The Spaniard's faintest of Championship hopes were mathematically ended in India on Sunday as Vettel, who only needed a fifth-place finish to secure his fourth straight crown, swept to his sixth win in a row while Alonso trailed home out of the points in 11th after a race ruined by contact at the first corner.
Since Alonso joined Ferrari in 2010 amid high optimism that the combination would sweep to regular title-winning success of their own, Vettel has proved unbeatable in the Drivers' Championship with Alonso on course for his third runner-up finish to the German this year.
Despite confirmation of his perennial rival's latest coronation, Alonso was fulsome in his praise of Vettel and Red Bull.
"For the title I congratulate Sebastian. Obviously a very, very strong season," the Spaniard told reporters.
"Dominating, especially the second part of the year with many, many wins and very strong [form]. Well done to him and to the team and hopefully next year we can put things a little bit more difficult than this year."
With only mathematics having kept Alonso in the Championship hunt with four races to go, the Spaniard admitted he didn't feel any different on Sunday night knowing the title had officially escaped his grasp again.
He accepted that Ferrari had been beaten by a stronger opponent and that they simply had to return in 2014 with a more competitive car.
"Yesterday I wasn't having different feeling and today Sebastian wins the Championship and it's not a surprise," Alonso insisted.
"We know that Sebastian was becoming Champion three or four races ago already because I needed to win all the races and he needed to finish fifth or something like that. It's something that you've already put to the side and today arrives the day. It's like the mathematical Championship finish but it's not surprises in terms of feeling or anything like that.
"This is a sport. Someone did better than us this year, this was Sebastian and Red Bull, and next year we will try to do better and keep fighting until the end. This year we were fighting until three races until the end - we were the only ones because the others [were out] mathematically a little bit earlier because we are second in the Championship.
"Inside all the bad things we were the last one to fight."
He added: "It's a day for us to start working even harder because we have a very strong challenge in front of us. They've been strong, dominating Formula 1 for the last four years so we need to do something better than we did the last four years because it's clear that it's not enough.
"So we will start immediately and next year we want to win so we have to work."
Given Alonso had needed to finish second in Sunday's race to have any hope of delaying Vettel's title celebrations by seven days to Abu Dhabi, the 32-year-old's chances were effectively dashed when he sustained damage to his F138 after making contact with Mark Webber's right-rear tyre as he exited the first corner. The incident prompted a unscheduled pitstop for a nosecone change.
Alonso had been hoping that a long opening stint on the medium tyre would bring him into play for the podium and afterwards said the performance of Sergio Perez, who started one place behind him on the grid and finished fifth, suggested it likely would have paid dividends.
"The strategy of Perez after the people started stopping, they were in a good position so I think it could have worked for us as well," he said.
"It's true as well that many people started from the soft tyres from 11th to 22nd, who normally start with prime tyres, so that was a little bit of a surprise for us today. Probably with the strategy it was a little bit more difficult, but this is not in our hands; obviously it's whatever people take and choose to start [with].
"After the contact with Webber the race was uphill for us. More difficult with one extra stop and we didn't have the time or the pace to recover the positions. So it was a little bit sad to lose important points, but nothing we could do today."
Alonso's 11th-place finish meant he missed out on points for the first time when making the chequered flag since the 2010 British GP. Although team-mate Felipe Massa did finish fourth, Ferrari still lost second position in the Constructors' Championship to Mercedes. They now trail their Brackley rivals by four points, with Lotus closing to within 24 points behind.