SAO PAULO, Brazil - Fernando Alonso has not won a third Formula 1 championship but the Ferrari driver still rates the 2012 season as the best of his career so far.The two titles he won with Renault in Brazil in 2005 and 2006 seemed to fill him with less pride than the defeat by Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel because he felt he was battling the odds this time.In 2010 he lost to Vettel in Abu Dhabi after taking a 15-point lead into the final race. At Interlagos 2012 he almost clawed back the 13 he needed to overhaul the German.FIGHTING TO FINAL LAPHe finished the final race of the 2012 season second after starting seventh and said later: "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. We didn't achieve the points to win the title but I won so many things this year: so much respect from everybody."Alonso won three races in 2012 but finished on the podium 13 times from 20 races despite starting the season with a car that looked way off the pace.He also failed to finish in Belgium and Japan, through no fault of his own after being dumped out in collisions with the Lotuses of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen.Alonso has been acclaimed throughout the paddock as the driver of the season, wringing the maximum out of a Ferrari that on paper should not have been getting on the podium after qualifying so far behind rivals.Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo agreed that his driver's performance was "simply fantastic" while team principal Stefano Domenicali said: "Alonso, like never before, really deserved to win this time. He has been extraordinary, not just in the way he has driven or because he simply never gave up in the first very difficult part of the season, but mainly for the human qualities he demonstrated within the team."Fernando ended where he did, having effectively only taken part in 18 of the 20 races: the few hundred metres he covered in Spa and then Suzuka lie heavy like a rock on today's outcome."