He might not have been happy with the general performance of his team this past F1 season, but Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo insists that Fernando Alonso has nothing to be ashamed of.

Speaking exclusively to Italian broadcaster RAI Uno, Montezemolo admitted that 2013 had, on the whole, been a year to forget, but praised Alonso's unstinting effort to push the Scuderia as close to the top of the constructors' table as he could. In the end, Ferrari could only manage third spot, beaten by runaway winner Red Bull and, in a closer battle for second, Mercedes.

Blaming an inability to develop the F138 in the second half of the season, Montezemolo said he would be looking for explanations why his team failed to keep pace with its rivals, but also insisted that the mid-season change of tyres - on safety grounds - played a major role in detuning Ferrari's competitiveness.

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"We built a car to work with certain tyres, with which we proved to be very competitive," he noted, "Then the tyres were changed, definitely proving to be a disadvantage for us and an advantage for others."

While lamenting lost points he felt should potentially have come from the second car of Felipe Massa - the departing Brazilian he insists will always be welcome at Ferrari - Montezemolo said he could not fault the contribution from the team's number one. Alonso clinched second in the drivers' standings at the penultimate round in Austin, on the back of two early-season wins, but spent much of the latter half of the calendar playing catch-up.

"He is right to be proud of second place - he had a great season," Montezemolo insisted, "We must give him a quicker car and he will get the most out of it. I thank him for all his efforts and the determination he showed this year.

"For next year, I would like to present him with a car that's even better than Red Bull. Let's not forget, we know how to do that - one only has to think of the five-year period from 2000-2004 and the wins in 2007 and 2008.... "

Highlighting the hitherto unknown fact that Alonso had said that he would have been willing to see off Massa's Ferrari career by helping him onto the podium at Interlagos, Montezemolo emphasised that it wasn't just Red Bull as a team that the Spaniard was battling.

"[Adrian] Newey isn't his opponent," he pointed out, recalling Alonso's own claim that it was Red Bull's technical wizard crating the difference between them, "There are also the drivers, starting with [Sebastian] Vettel, then [Lewis] Hamilton and [Nico] Rosberg, who has improved a lot."

Montezemolo also picked out Kimi Raikkonen who, of course, will be partnering Alonso in a Ferrari 'dream team' next season.

"[Raikkonen] will be trying to win, which will give us a boost and should bring the points we were missing this year," he noted, "We have taken him back for his experience, for what he has done over the past two years and because he is much loved inside and outside the team. I was very pleased to see the enthusiasm that greeted the news of his return, again both internally and externally."

The president was quick to point out that, while there would be no favouritism towards one driver, the interests of the team still came first.

"Whoever has the honour and responsibility of driving for Ferrari must think of the team first and foremost, and not of himself," he insisted, "None of our drivers could ever hurt the other one. Alonso is maybe the strongest race driver I've ever met, even if it is always difficult to make comparisons with the past. I am sure they will help one another."

The question of future driver pairings was never far away, particularly with the constant suggestion that four-time world champion Vettel may, one day, wind up at Maranello. Responding to a question regarding Bernie Ecclestone's assertion that the German was 'better than [Ayrton] Senna', Montezemolo remained coy on the possibility of seeing Vettel in scarlet.

"Ecclestone says what suits him, but there is no doubt [Vettel] is a great driver," he admitted, "He is a serious young man who has won a lot and, therefore, he deserves respect. I congratulate him and Red Bull.

"Vettel at Ferrari? Who knows what the future holds? But, for now, drivers are definitely not a problem for us."