Ferrari's Fernando Alonso said he was "proud" of his season despite losing the world title to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Alonso was second at Interlagos but Vettel took sixth to beat him by three points.
"I am so proud and happy to fight until the last lap with the package we had. It was by far the best season of my career," said the two-time champion.
"I will remember this like some dream season. So much respect from everyone."
The Spaniard added: "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."
Alonso was ahead of Vettel almost throughout the race in Brazil, but apart from a brief period at the start, their respective positions always meant the German was on course to win his third consecutive world title.
Alonso pointed to the Belgian and Japanese Grands Prix as the decisive races in him losing the title.
In both races he retired at the first corner following collisions with a Lotus car.
In Belgium, his Ferrari was hit by the flying Romain Grosjean and in Japan Kimi Raikkonen's front wing hit Alonso's rear tyre and gave him a puncture.
In Japan, Vettel escaped a penalty despite holding Alonso up in qualifying and after the race in Brazil the Spaniard made it clear he had been unhappy with that decision.
"The championship was not lost here," said Alonso. "The championship was lost when Grosjean flew over my head or when Vettel surprisingly only got a reprimand after qualifying in Japan. I have a great feeling after 2012."
"There's been situations during the season that make you think of these three points, 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.
He said he felt much better than he did after losing the title to Vettel at the final race of 2010, when he went into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 15 points clear of the German but lost out following a major strategy error by Ferrari.
"I'm very satisfied," Alonso said. "It's a very good feeling what I have now. It was very frustrating in Abu Dhabi two years ago because we had it in our hands and we had some frustration. Here it is it completely the opposite."
Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali said: "We are proud of him. We are very disappointed because I think the one who deserved the championship was really him.
"It was a shame because after such a long season in which we really fight in all conditions, we race 18 races not 20 and being second by three points really hurts a lot."
Alonso said if Ferrari wanted to do better in 2013 they had to avoid starting the season in the manner they did this year, when they were 1.5 seconds off the pace at the first race.
He said: "We need to improve the car. We have the best team in terms of running the car zero mechanical problems, but we were too slow.
"We were behind Red Bulls, McLarens and then in these last races behind Williams and Force India.
"We cannot fight for the championship if we are too slow. We can be a little slower, but not much.
"There were some strange combinations and I'm not sure we can be this lucky in the future."