VALENCIA, Spain, June 26, 2011 (AFP) - Fernando Alonso called his second place in Sunday's European Grand Prix a "great achievement" for Ferrari - and forecast they are on the way back as a major force.
Alonso, who qualified fourth, moved up to third at the start and spent the remaining 56 laps battling Red Bull driver Mark Webber for second.
The two drivers exchanged positions on three occasions before the Spaniard eventually finished the race 11 seconds adrift of race-winner Sebastian Vettel, also of Red Bull.
"It was an interesting race for the fans and people on TV," said Alonso, "to see the fight with Webber all the race through.
"At the beginning of the race I was behind him, trying to not be too far away, and have a benefit in the pit stop and an opportunity to overtake him. We had an opportunity in the middle of the race when I overtook him at Turn 12. They did a good stop and overtook us and then at final stop the team did a good strategy and we overtook him. Quite a bit of changing positions between Mark and me."
Alonso said he had never expected to win but stressed that Sunday's result was further proof that the Italian team have recovered from their disappointing start to the season.
"Second place is the maximum we can have these days, so being here between the Red Bull cars is a great achievement.
"Monaco was a good performance to finish second, Canada a good performance but we didn't score and here second is a great team result."
The 29-year-old suggested that if his Ferrari team continue to improve as they have in recent races, it will not be long before they can match the pace of the high-flying Red Bulls.
"We are definitely moving in the right direction and will get closer to them at the next races."
"I think we all in Ferrari know our tifosi is expecting us to win," he said. "At the moment we are not in that position. We are getting much closer. In the first few races we were 1.5 seconds behind, now it is six or seven tenths, so we have halved it. We will not stop working until we reach the performance of the car."
His Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa wound up fifth behind Lewis Hamilton after a slow second pit-stop took him out of the running for fourth place.
The 30-year-old Brazilian said he was feeling disappointed as he believed he had had the pace to finish ahead of the McLaren driver.
"It was a good race spent constantly fighting other drivers," he said. "It was a shame about the problem at my second pit stop, when I lost those four or five seconds which cost me the chance of fighting Hamilton for fourth place.
"I think that, from what have seen in performance terms, today we should have got both our cars ahead of the McLarens."Massa added: "Now we come to the Silverstone weekend. We will see if we will manage to confirm the progress that we have seen in the last three races."