FERNANDO Alonso is at the peak of his powers and driving better than ever this year, Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali said yesterday after the Spaniard's third win of the season.

The double world champion, who is seeking to become the youngest triple champion in Formula One history, led from start to finish at Hockenheim on Sunday, resisting sustained pressure from rivals Jenson Button and defending champion Sebastian Vettel.

Button came second, while Vettel was demoted to fifth with a time penalty after a controversial pass on the British driver.

Domenicali said: "Considering that the race was 67 qualifying laps, it shows that Fernando is at the peak of his performance. He is in a great moment and we will try to keep this momentum for as long as possible.

"It's true, as Fernando said, that I believe we still do not have the fastest car. If we had the fastest car then it would be easier to win. We need to improve the car.

"In such a tight championship you need to make sure you develop race by race, otherwise you will lose points.

"The competition is so strong. Here, the first three cars were within two or three seconds. It's nothing, considering Fernando had to do 67 laps of qualifying."

Alonso said he too did not feel Ferrari's F2012 was the quickest of the field and warned his team that the Red Bull and McLaren teams were as strong or faster.

"This year it was important for Fernando not to lose faith in this team, when we had difficult days at the start of the season, with a car that was not a car!" said Domenicali.

"To see him always motivated or focused on the job, it was really good and it makes the difference when you are under pressure. We had a big job to improve the car, but if you see that your world champion is pushing in the right way for the team to work, then that is something fundamental. For that we thank him a lot."

Alonso now has a clear 34 points lead in the drivers' championship ahead of Australian Mark Webber of Red Bull, as the Formula One circus heads to Budapest for next weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix - the last before the summer break.

In a season with a record 20 races on the calendar, Ferrari's second driver Brazilian Felipe Massa believes his performances will be vital in assisting his team-mate's bid for glory.

On Alonso warning at the weekend he believed both Red Bull drivers, Vettel and Webber, along with Briton Lewis Hamilton of McLaren, were likely to mount serious bids for the title, Massa said: "Sure, Fernando needs me. In a championship like this, it is very important to have both cars scoring points.

"This year it is so competitive between many drivers, many teams, so you know how important every result is.

"It is a championship that maybe one point can be enough to win or lose."

Massa believes the title fight will go down to the last race of the season and has urged Ferrari to keep pushing in the development race to make sure Alonso is a part of that battle. "Every race will be important from now until the last one. We need to keep working like we were doing in the last few races and improving the car and then Fernando has even more chance to fight until the last race."

Despite much speculation over his future at Ferrari, Massa said he was confident of delivering the results needed to secure his place. "I feel very good now. I would say after Monaco I feel very automatic driving the car, very competitive, and that is the most important thing."

Sapa-AFP