Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo has admitted that Lewis Hamilton earned the F1 world championship title with his performance over the course of the 2008 season - but vowed to topple the Briton again next season.
Writing in a statement on the Ferrari website, di Montezemolo said that he had been proud of the effort his team had put in to take the title fight to the last lap of the season and, while naturally disappointed to see Felipe Massa miss out in dramatic fashion, accepted that, on this occasion, the Scuderia had come off second best.
"In all my years in F1, I haven't seen such an incredibly exciting finish to a championship," he admitted, "I always said that we'd be fighting until the last corner of the last grand prix and that's exactly what happened at the end of a brilliantly tense competition.
"Felipe, in particular, is in my thoughts as he crossed the finish line yesterday as world champion, only to see the title slip through his fingers a few seconds later. I can only imagine how painful that moment must have been for him. However, I would like to give him my very special compliments, not only for dominating the running out there on the track in front of his fans, proving he is worthy indeed of the world title, but also for his maturity and sportsmanship off the track. He's a great champion and a great man.
"I would also like to send my congratulations to Lewis Hamilton, the youngest ever world champion in the history of F1. He was a very powerful rival indeed and his win, close though it was, was well deserved. He'll have the #1 on his car next season, but he can rest assured of one thing.... we'll be doing our very best to put it back on a Ferrari."
Despite missing out on the drivers' title, the 1-3 finish recorded by Massa and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was enough to seal another constructors' crown for the Scuderia, and di Montezemolo praised his workforce for the winning effort.
"Ferrari winning its 16th constructors' world title since its foundation is an important milestone, not only because it is the fruit of the work put in by the team and the drivers throughout the entire championship, but also because we will once again be able to put the world champion symbol on our Grand Tourers," he admitted.
"Winning for the eighth time in ten years - a feat unequalled at world level in any other team sport - proves beyond a shadow of a doubt what an extraordinary group we are. We have two great drivers in Felipe and Kimi, and they deserve all our compliments for a job well done, [but] we won thanks to a team that has undergone many profound changes over the last two years, changes that have brought on many young people from inside the company. There were mistakes and difficult times, but we responded to both by remaining united and refusing to give in and, for that, I thank GES director Stefano Domenicali and his entire team of collaborators."