Fernando Alonso has said Ferrari needs to improve and that his car felt slow for all of Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix, a race he described as 'a little bit of a nightmare'.

Alonso spent most of the afternoon battling with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, and while he got the better of both - with Ricciardo dropping back after pit stop problems, and then passing Hulkenberg to take fourth near the end, the Spaniard was still disappointed.

Indeed he was 35.9 seconds off eventual winner, Lewis Hamilton at the 'flag, while Sebastian Vettel was 11.4 seconds ahead in P3.

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"It [my Ferrari] felt slow for all the race, to be honest," Alonso told reporters in Sepang, including Crash.net. "I felt not competitive enough and I was not fast enough in the first stint to compete with the guys in front. Then when we did the first stint and we switched for another set of medium tyres. I was not really comfortable then either - not comfortable with the balance and not comfortable with the brakes. It was a little bit of a nightmare out there. We understand that Hulkenberg was on a different strategy and from that point we needed to push and try and get him. It was not possible to challenge the Red Bull. But we knew Hulkenberg would be in front in the last stint and so we will need to overtake him. There was no time to lose in the pit stop or with the people we were lapping, any small time lost, would be a penalty later on. We tried to concentrate on that.

"About the performance, I don't think there was much difference in stints one, two, three or four. It was just a little bit less fuel every stint and we were a little bit more comfortable with the car [as a result]. But all the rest through, we were not happy."

Quizzed on what was the main problem, he replied: "We are studying it in detail and trying to analyse everything. Obviously anything we find we will not tell you guys. But today we just didn't have a particularly good race.

"Traction was not good. Out of the corners we were losing ground. But obviously we are comparing our car with the best traction car out there, which is the Red Bull. Maybe it was more or less expected this deficit. Also with the top-speed it is no secret we are not comparable to Mercedes. They were fastest in Australia, fastest in the pre-season tests and fastest here and to pass Hulkenberg we had to do it in the second corner. That is not a normal position to overtake. But with the tyre advantage that I had in the last stint, that was the easiest place for me to do it.

"We have some work to do. Obviously for Bahrain there is not much we can do because in five days we are in the car again. There won't be any magical change on the cars. It will be more or less similar there. The track characteristics are a little bit different so, with more long straights, probably we will see Williams, for example, has a very good top speed and will be competitive in Bahrain. We saw that also in the test with [Felipe] Massa and [Valtteri] Bottas. It is going to be tough again. But somehow we manage to always be in the top-five. At the moment with the performance we have, it is giving us some good points. We must finish the race in Bahrain.

"But for China and Spain it is very clear what we need to bring to the car and we will. We need to do better. No one in the team is giving up. We have the potential and we have talented people and the resources. Let's work on it."

Despite all that, however, Alonso is still third in the Drivers' Championship and thanks to his fourth in Australia and his fourth in Malaysia, is only one point behind Hamilton.

So is that a miracle, given the level of competitiveness of his Ferrari? "No [it is not a miracle], It is a consequence of a strong car with no mechanical problems," he explained. "Obviously we have had two races and two finishes and that has given us the opportunity to score some good points. We know that we miss a little bit of performance compared to the top guys and today to run behind the Mercedes' and the Red Bulls, I was not quick enough to follow them. We missed a little bit there. We need to improve. But we were able to score these fourth positions and are third in the Drivers' Championship at the moment. That is the best news of the first few races."

"Obviously it is not the perfect position to start the championship," he noted. "We would like to win the first two races, but unfortunately we were not in that position. But the team is doing a massive effort to catch up and improve the situation. We will improve - that is for sure.

"We have only done two races. We are going deep into the analysis of the areas where we need to improve. More or less it seems very clear to us [where we need to improve]. We will put a lot of effort to improve the car and to run as soon as possible at the level of Mercedes and Red Bull.

"Until that day we need to score points, as we are doing, and looking at the performance we have had in these two races, we have only one point less than Hamilton and nine points more than Vettel. That is something that is the less negative thing of the races so far. We are scoring good points and until we are more competitive - that is the goal," he concluded.