Despite finishing as runner-up in his second 'home' grand prix of the season, Fernando Alonso has joined former McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton in admitting that there needs to be a major turn of events if he is to claim his first world title with Ferrari.

The Spaniard topped Friday's free practice in Valencia, but always expected it to be something of a false dawn, and so it proved as Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull claimed both pole position and the race win. Alonso did, however, get the better of the German's team-mate, swapping places with Mark Webber a couple of times on Sunday afternoon to eventually secure his best European GP result since the event moved to his homeland.

Despite that, however, the two-time world champion languishes 99 points behind Vettel and, along with Webber, remains without a win in 2011. Until his Ferrari can match the potential of the RB7, he admits, a third crown will remain a pipe dream.

"I think I'm happy with the performance, and the team moving forward from a difficult start to the season, [but], obviously, the championship is not in our calculations at the moment," he conceded, "It's not in our hands, so we just need to take it race-by-race, try to win the races we go to and wait for some mistakes from Red Bull.

"At the moment, I don't think we can think of the championship in a proper way, [but] we'll see what happens in the last part of the season. The distance now - with 99 points, a hundred or whatever - is a lot, so it's not in our hands. As we said, we're one second behind, or eight-tenths behind, and, if anyone thinks we can win a championship being eight-tenths behind, it's because maybe they don't understand F1."

In spite of his long-term pessimism, however, Alonso reiterated that he was pleased with the progress being shown by Ferrari, which has made some high-profile personnel moves in recent weeks [see story here], and said that he hoped to be able to give the team's fanatical fans something bigger to cheer before too long.

"Yeah, definitely," he enthused, "[Everyone] in Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro knows that our tifosi are expecting us to win. At the moment, we are not in that position, but we are getting much closer.

"In the first three or four races of the championship, we were, on average, 1.5secs behind Red Bull in qualifying, now we are on average six or seven tenths [behind], so we have closed the gap by half. There is a clear trend, a clear direction, that is moving forward and we've made some good steps in the car. We need to wait for Silverstone, Nurburgring - circuits that are more normal circuits, not only straights and big braking - but we are confident that we have understood the wind tunnel problems we had at the beginning of the year so now all the parts we put on the car, all the ideas that we have, are working, so that is definitely a positive thing.

"What we can do on the track side - drivers, engineers, mechanics - is to deliver. It is to do clean races with no mistakes, good starts, good strategy, as we see today. I know there was a lot of criticism about the strategy in Canada, but I think that was more bad luck than wrong strategy. In terms of strategy today, we did very well. We overtook one Red Bull at the end and, hopefully, that will be in the papers tomorrow as well."

While Vettel maintained a comfortable margin over his pursuers, Alonso and Webber engaged in one of the more interesting battles of the European GP, swapping places both on track and in the pits before the Australian was hobbled by a gearbox problem in the closing stages.

"I think it was interesting for the fans, for the people on TV, to see the fight with Webber all the race through," the Spaniard confirmed, "At the beginning of the race, I was behind him, trying to be not too far [adrift] and trying to have the benefit in the pit-stop, to have the opportunity to overtake him. The opportunity came later on in the middle of the race, but on the track, not in the pits, as I overtook him under braking for turn twelve.

"In the pits, [Red Bull] did a good job again and overtook us, but then, in the last pit-stop, I think the team did a very good strategy, keeping the car out with the soft tyres for a couple of laps longer than the Red Bull. The car performed very well and we overtook him finally on the stops."

Asked whether the strategy could have been a little better and kept him ahead of Webber at the second round of stops that followed shortly after his passing move on the Australian, Alonso admitted that it was always going to be touch-and-go unless he could open out an immediate advantage.

"I think, when you have a one second, or 1.5 second, gap between two cars, the car that stops [first] has the advantage because the whole lap will be around two seconds quicker," he explained, "We knew, when Mark stopped, that we obviously had to stop the lap after, but our chance of being in front was not great.

"I also think we had a lot of problems with backmarkers, traffic. Obviously, it's not easy to let cars past on this circuit, as there are two walls on this long straight which isn't really straight, and I think we all lost time. Maybe I lost time in this middle part of the race. I know Mark lost time with one of the Hispania cars at the end. It balances out but, when you are in a pit-stop area, or when it's pit-stop laps, it's very important.

"In the end, second place is the maximum we can have this day, but being here between the Red Bull cars is a great achievement from the team. Monaco was a very good performance all weekend, and we finished second. Canada was a very good performance, but we didn't score any points there [after a clash with Jenson Button] and, here again, it was a very good weekend in terms of performance. Getting both cars in the top five is a great team result, so we're definitely moving in the right direction, but we need to keep working and be even closer to these guys in the next grand prix."

That next grand prix is the British round at Silverstone, and Alonso makes no secret of what Ferrari needs to be focusing on between now and then.

"Aerodynamics," he states clearly, "I don't think that it's a secret what we are lacking. What F1 needs these days is aero performance. We can be more or less competitive in these circuits where there are no high speed corners with heavy braking on the straights. The tyres are the same for everybody, brakes are no different, engines are more or less the same, KERS we all use, so it's all about aerodynamics. As I said, these days everybody knows about our problems during the winter and we were putting parts on the car which didn't make the car quicker. When we realised [what the problem was] it was Malaysia, so now we are a couple of months behind."