Spaniard says Ferrari didn't have the pace to challenge Red Bull and Lotus

Fernando Alonso has defended the race strategy Ferrari used in the German Grand Prix even though he finished off the podium in Sunday's race.

Alonso came home in fourth place behind race winner Sebastian Vettel and the Lotuses of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. As a result, he now stands 34 points behind Vettel in the Drivers' Championship.

"It was very good, the strategy," the Spaniard said after the race. "I think this strategy gave us the possibility to fight for the podium. We were not quick enough today, we didn't have the pace. And even with that, we fight for the podium and we were very close to the leading group."

Ferrari bucked the trend by qualifying Alonso and team-mate Felipe Massa on the medium tyre rather than the soft. The intention had been for them to run longer opening stints and then make ground in the closing stages after switching to the option.

It didn't work out like that, however. For a start, Massa spun into retirement on lap three and then the hot conditions started to play their part.

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Alonso pitted on lap 12, which was much earlier than had been expected. In fact, it was one lap before Grosjean - who was running the soft - made his first stop.

Changing to softs on lap 49, Alonso closed on Grosjean during the closing laps but couldn't get close enough.

Even so, the double World Champion reckoned he was closer than he would have been had Ferrari made the more conventional choice and aimed for higher grid slots than seventh and eighth.

"It's hard for me to imagine, if we start fifth and we go soft-hard-hard-hard as the main competitors, I don't think I'd have finished four seconds behind them or fight with them - because we are slower than them and they will pull away," Alonso said.

"We were fighting with them thanks to the strategy."

The medium compound - seen as the race tyre - degraded more than anticipated while a safety car intervention helped move the race towards a three-stopper.

According to Alonso, the hotter temperatures meant that the soft tyres "were working much better than expected. We expected graining very quickly in the first five or six laps but it was not the case.

"We need to understand them better with the change of temperature because they seem to perform a little bit different every time."

The race brought safety changes from Pirelli and the FIA in the wake of the blowouts suffered at the British GP and there had been talk of a driver boycott if there was a repeat of Silverstone.

But according to Alonso, "the tyres were no problem in terms of safety. Only when Felipe had the problem in Turn 1, I didn't know if it was a tyre or not.

"I radioed and asked if there was a problem with the tyres or the car because it was a little bit strange. But it was nothing with the tyre and they behaved well."

Explaining his retirement, Massa said: "I braked at the end of the straight and I locked the rear wheels. The car went sideways to the right and then I corrected. And then it went sideways to the left and then I spun.

"So then I stopped the car. I was in fifth gear; I tried to go down to first to go out and the gear was not going down.

"So I was stuck in fifth gear. I tried to go out but the engine went down because it's difficult to leave in fifth gear."