When Sebastian Vettel snatched the 2010 World Championship from beneath his nose in Abu Dhabi in the last race of the season, insiders say that Fernando Alonso wept inconsolably in the Ferrari garage for an hour and a half.
The defeat – based on flawed strategic thinking as Ferrari kept an eye on Mark Webber and shadowed his pit stops instead of watching Vettel, and a lengthy spell trapped behind Vitaly Petrov's fleet Renault with no DRS to facilitate overtaking – cost Englishman Chris Dyer his job at Ferrari and tore out the Spaniard's heart.
Another defeat on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Brazil last weekend didn't have the same effect.
Alonso's stare was stony-eyed as he climbed from his Ferrari which he had dragged into second place thanks, in no small measure, to the unselfish and sporting behaviour of his underrated team-mate Felipe Massa. But far from breaking him, the defeat will make him even more dangerous in 2013.
Even though his car was generally second best to those of Red Bull and McLaren this year, Alonso said it had been his best in a Formula One career that began with Minardi in 2001. "The championship was not lost here," he said in Interlagos. "The championship was lost when Romain Grosjean flew over my head at Spa or when Vettel surprisingly only got a reprimand after qualifying in Japan."
"So, for sure, there you lose a couple of points. There were also some races that we have some strange decisions let's say, and some penalties, so maybe we lost also there. But that's the sport. Even though I finished second in the points I have never had such respect and the affection from everybody in the paddock.
"This is the first time that I have got drivers, ex-drivers, teams, fans to say that we have done the best championship. We'll be back as strong in 2013, because it would be harder to be stronger. I have a great feeling after 2012, by far the best year of my career."
He said the Brazilian race typified the problems he has had in qualifying all year, which often meant starting on his back foot and having to fight through.
"I think we didn't have the quickest car, as it has been obvious in all races, and it was a miracle that we were fighting for the championship here. And it was a miracle until the final lap, because thanks to the team's perfect work we have found ourselves in this position. And even though we lost the championship, we have to be proud to have finished second."
He also praised the contribution made, especially in the latter half of the year, by Massa. "For sure it was a very, very good second part of the year for him, with some podiums and some very good performances," Alonso said.
"If I found myself fighting for the World Championship at the last race it's also thanks to teamwork. There is a lot of tests that Felipe was doing in the simulator in the summer and there is the Friday practice where you can share the programme and you can trust the results.
"There's maximum trust, maximum confidence in Felipe's work every time in the races, in practice, in the simulator. We are a team. We are united. And in the last two, three races, there was also some help in the race itself in terms of positions gained, et cetera."
Far from weeping, he said he felt very satisfied. "I think it's a very good feeling what I have now. It was very frustrating maybe in Abu Dhabi two years ago because we have the title in our hands and we lost it. Here is completely the opposite. I'm so proud and I'm so happy to fight until the last lap with the package we have in our hands.
"That is the best thing for me, to feel proud of myself, it was by far the best season of my career and I will remember this 2012 like some dream season," Alonso added.
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