Alonso clinches superb win in Valencia

2012 European Grand Prix review

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Valencia, 2012Fernando Alonso won the European Grand Prix after an excellent drive from 11th on the grid.

Early runaway leader Sebastian Vettel dropped out following a safety car period, by which time Alonso had battled his way through to second place.

Behind him Kimi Raikkonen took second ahead of Michael Schumacher – who finished on the podium for the first time since his comeback.

Vettel scorches into early lead

In the opening stages of the race it seemed no-one could catch Vettel. He converted pole position into the lead with ease, and by the end of the first lap was almost two seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton.

The next time by his lead had ballooned to four seconds – the updated Red Bull allowing him to reproduce the kind of dominance that was familiar from last year.

Hamilton came under intense pressure from Romain Grosjean, who had squeezed down the inside of Pastor Maldonado’s Williams at the first corner. Kamui Kobayashi also demoted Maldonado on the first lap, and the Williams driver fell into the clutches of Kimi Raikkonen.

They formed a train behind the McLaren while Vettel continued to extend his lead – by lap eight he was more than nine seconds to the good.

Grosjean, urged on by the Lotus pit wall, was exploring places to pass the McLaren. He found one on lap ten, going around the outside of turn 12 and to get the inside for turn 13.

But despite finding clear air Grosjean wasn’t able to make much of an impression on Vettel. By lap 12 the flying Red Bull was 11.9 seconds up the road.

Raikkonen had made an earlier effort to pass Maldonado and was pushed wide at turn 17 for his trouble. On lap 13 he drew along the outside of the Willams at turn 13 and made the move stick at the following corner for fifth.

Moments later Alonso also displaced the Williams. The Ferrari driver had picked up three places at the start before homing in on Maldonado.

Meanwhile the first pit stops had begun, led by Jenson Button and Sergio Perez on lap 11. Felipe Massa was in the next time by, Ferrari covering Button’s stop.

Hamilton came in on lap 14 and on the following lap his pursuers Raikkonen, Kobayashi, Maldonado and Hulkenberg all dived in. Raikkonen gained another place at the expense of Kobayashi.

Vettel and Grosjean came in together on lap 17 without any dramas.

Several drivers opted to delay their first pit stop, including Paul di Resta, Nico Rosberg, Michael Schumacher, Bruno Senna and Mark Webber – the latter trying to make progress having started 19th.

Grosjean lost little time passing di Resta to retake second place. Hamilton arrived behind him having picked off Senna, Schumacher, Rosberg and finally Di Resta.

Alonso emerged his pit stop crucially in front of Raikkonen. He then proceeded to pull of three vital passes that brought him within striking distance of the front.

He took Webber at turn two – braking far later and narrowly missing the rear of his rival. He took Senna later in the lap and then Schumacher – all while Raikkonen was still trying to find a way past Webber.

Raikkonen took the Red Bull, followed by Kobayashi, and then set about passing Senna. This was accomplished on the run to turn seven but as Senna regained the racing line Kobayashi tried to squeeze past but made contact with the Williams.

Kobayashi lost his front wing and Senna, pitched into a spin, picked up a puncture – both hobbled back to the pits. The stewards made the contentious decision to blame Senna for “causing a collision”, handing him a drive-through penalty.

Vergne-Kovalainen collision brings out safety car

A few laps later there was more drama. Jean-Eric Vergne was making a straightforward pass on Heikki Kovalainen when he inexplicably moved across on the Caterham. The damage ended Vergne’s race and gave Kovalainen a puncture and damaged wheel.

This had consequences for everyone else in the race as the safety car was summoned while the debris was recovered. Vettel’s 20 second lead was wiped out but he was able to keep his lead despite pitting a lap after Grosjean, Hamilton, Alonso and the rest.

Not for the first time this year, Hamilton’s pit stop did not go according to plan – a problem with the jack delayed him. “Shame about the stop that went wrong,” said mechanic Marc Cox on Twitter afterwards. “Totally out of our hands and we did our best.”

Hamilton’s delay promoted Alonso to third. Daniel Ricciardo did not stop and took fourth ahead of Raikkonen, with Hamilton down to sixth.

Under the revived rule for 2012 the lapped cars were waved past before the restart, keeping the safety car on-track for an extra two laps.

Alonso takes lead at restart

Vettel and Grosjean led the pack as the Safety Car returned to the pits – but both were doomed not to last much longer.

Grosjean took a look at Vettel at the final corner as the race resumed but Alonso took a wide line into the turn and emerged with a brilliant run on the Lotus. He drew around the outside of turn one and as Grosjean covered the inside line for turn two Alonso completed a superb opportunistic past.

His reward was doubled further around the lap when Vettel pulled up with an alternator failure on his RB8. A few laps later Grosjean succumbed to the same having been pressing Alonso for the lead.

Alonso now had a comfortable three-second margin over Hamilton and Raikkonen, who had demoted Ricciardo. Ferrari watched carefully for signs of the dreaded tyre degradation which cost him victory in Canada, but there was to be no repeat.

Maldonado takes out Hamilton

Hamilton, however, did hit tyre trouble, and with three laps to go Raikkonen was hounding him. Coming out of the turn 17 hairpin his traction was so poor Raikkonen simply out-accelerated him to take second.

Now Maldonado was within range and the DRS zone gave him an opportunity to pull alongside the McLaren.

Hamilton eased him wide at turn 12 but Maldonado swung back onto the track into the side of the McLaren, pitching Hamilton into the barrier.

The wounded Williams now had a shaky fold on third place but fell victim to a string of cars led, surprisingly, by Michael Schumacher.

The Mercedes driver had ripped through the field, followed by Mark Webber, after the pair made late second pit stops.

Alonso celebrates home win

Alonso celebrated his win by parking his Ferrari and waving a Spanish flag in front of his fans. It’s his second F1 victory in Spain, along with his 2006 trumph at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Raikkonen and Schumacher made it three world champions on the podium with a combined ten titles between them.

Webber led home Nico Hulkenberg in his best finish for Force India. Team mate Paul di Resta ran a one-stop strategy and faded to finish seventh.

Nico Rosberg appeared between the pair of them, rocketing from tenth to sixth in the final laps after his late second stop.

Button was a lowly eighth for McLaren followed by Sergio Perez and Maldonado – who took two minutes to complete the final lap and nearly lost the last points place to his team mate.

Ricciardo had looked good for points until he tripped over Vitaly Petrov’s Caterham, almost flipping his Toro Rosso. Petrov ran tenth and finished 12th, in front of his team mate despite making four pit stops – twice as many as Kovalainen.

The sole Marussia of Charles Pic came in 15th – Timo Glock did not start the race due to illness, having also missed qualifying.

Felipe Massa was a lapped 16th following a collision with Kobayashi. The HRTs were still running at the end and were classified along with the unhappy Hamilton.

Schumacher back on the podium

Alonso’s remarkable win will rank along with the best of his career – much as his earlier victory in Malaysia earlier this year. It gives him a 20-point lead in the drivers’ standings, boosted by Vettel and Hamilton’s failure to score.

But if anyone on the podium was almost as happy, it was surely Schumacher, who returned to a Formula 1 podium for the first time in six years.

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76 comments on Alonso clinches superb win in Valencia

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  1. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 24th June 2012, 18:28

    Great race. High drama as soon as Kobayashi smashed into Senna. From then on it was thrilling stuff. Delighted for Alonso, who drove a magnificent race and for Schumacher to get his long overdue podium.

    This feels like one of those races that will be pivotal for the Championship come November.

    • xeroxpt (@) said on 24th June 2012, 23:51

      about that first incident Kob and Sen they tried to avoid the safety car because of the good scrap but after the 2nd incident that brought finally the safety car they tried to avoid a second output, we got at least 15 minutes of safety car, but in the end we had a great restart so i’m in favour with the safety car policy.

      • JCost (@jcost) said on 25th June 2012, 9:45

        Many will hail Pirelli for making Valencia event interesting at last, but credit for making it a thriller should be given to safety car. Before SC was deployed I was having a dejá vu watching Vettel flying away of the pack building on a 20+ seconds advantage over Grosjean. I’m afraid Red Bull has found a way to provide Vettel a part capable of producing a similar effect they famous blown diffuser did and he starts dominating races like last year. But the optimist in me believes that we still have a race specific dominant car and Vettel will not enjoy many races like that.

        On SC, how did they find it was safe keeping SC parked while marshals were on the track removing a broken car?

  2. sumedh said on 24th June 2012, 18:31

    Maldonado has rightly been given a penalty.

    But you have to question Hamilton’s wisdom in trying so hard to defend from a hot-headed driver like Maldonado in the first place. Yes, I agree that he is a racer at heart and a racer will never give up his position (Add Senna’s famous quote here). But, he must learn to think of the big picture, the championship.

    Vettel and Alonso were in a similar situation at Canada two weeks earlier. Bad tyres, few laps left. But they just let people past. Even the inexperienced ones – Grosjean, Senna. I hope Hamilton learns from this incident.

    • AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 24th June 2012, 19:52

      I think Hamilton is still not channeling his aggression effectively. On the back of his troubles last year, his aggression seems to be in ‘low mode’ by default. For example, when Grosjean passed him he could it have made it much harder for him, with little risk IMO, simply by braking a little later and easing Grosjean wide. At the end of the race (annoyed at having struggled the whole afternoon?), he did start defending agressively, but by that time his rear tyres were so far gone he would have been lucky to have made it round one more lap.

      By contrast, we see Alonso and Vettel having the confidence to drive aggressively when it is called for; Alonso in this race for instance and Vettel on Rosberg in Australia.

      • AmirAnuar (@amiranuar) said on 24th June 2012, 20:12

        hamilton have every right to defend the position and i don’t think he is aggressive at all. he was very clever in putting his car on the race line and he entitle to it….
        it was maldanado that was to aggressive if he just waited a couple of corner he could have hamilton

      • JCost (@jcost) said on 24th June 2012, 21:42

        That was the closing laps and he tried to keep P3. I
        Maldonado said he was faster, so why didn’t he waited for the next straight after being fairly fended off by Hamilton instead of crashing into him?

      • rantingmrp (@rantingmrp) said on 25th June 2012, 8:49

        Hamilton’s first retirement in 12 races this season, and “he is not channeling his aggressiveness blah blah”? wonder what you would say about Jenson.

        • JCost (@jcost) said on 25th June 2012, 9:59

          Sounds like @adrianmorse was waiting for this moment for some time, too bad Lewis is not to blame for this one…

        • AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 25th June 2012, 10:38

          @rantingmrp, @jcost (and most others) You completely misunderstand me. I’m just saying his isn’t driving at his best yet. I think he is often deliberately cautious in order to prevent repeating the incidents of last year. I think he was too cautious with Grosjean on lap 10, when it seems he could have defended the place without too much risk. At the end, though, his rear tyres were so far gone the wisest course of action would have been to limp home, oblivious of whoever would drive around him.

          And just to be clear: I’m not in league with some other commenters here that are squealing “Forza Maldonado”; quite the opposite. I’m a big fan of Hamilton and I just wished he had seen the finish with some reasonable points rather than seeing the relentless Alonso disappear on the championship horizon.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 25th June 2012, 19:09

          To me he has been doing that excellently so far this year, this was the first time he looked a bit more like he has been before in this aspect.

    • Alex Brown (@splittimes) said on 24th June 2012, 21:10

      I think when positions are slipping through your fingers like they were for Hamilton, you have to be very decisive in your defense, and he did this. He did nothing that hadn’t been done elsewhere in the race by others. With his tyres in such a state, Maldonado had the advantage and could therefore leave Hamilton to tie himself in knots. It should have been easy for him, but he made it hard. If Maldonado keeps this up, he’ll have race bans to his name.

      Still, an awesome race, and this little controversy just added to it (ahem, sorry Lewis).

      • The guy already has bans to his name for ignoring flags and injurying marshalls.

        He shouldnt have got into F1 in the first place.

        And with these stupid punishments hes getting for his actions, it wont be long before something more serious happens.

    • baldgye (@baldgye) said on 24th June 2012, 23:29

      I don’t see how Lewis did anything wrong in anyway, and while yes in Canada Vettel and Alonso let past faster drivers, they did so on the DRS zone where they had no chance to defend.
      In this instance Lewis simply put his car on the inside, and made the corner, Maldonado didn’t make the apex and didn’t have the corner or the lead and was totally off the track, and he then decided to just drive into Lewis.
      I’m not sure you could have predicted that, I wouldn’t it wasn’t like Lewis did a Rosberg and weaved right in one direction to cut him off, he was just taking the chicane.

      Maldonado was totally to blame for an incident that never needed to happen and is another mark on the list of drivers he has driven into for apparentally no reason. I serisouly don’t understand why he hasn’t been given a race ban or a penalty for the next race.
      He seems to see the red mist and just drive into people for no reason. A person like that shouldn’t be allowed to race, let alone get away with it almost scott free…

      • sumedh said on 25th June 2012, 11:14

        I am in complete agreement with you over the fact that Maldonado was in the wrong in the actual incident.
        But this incident happened in the first place because Hamilton chose to fight Maldonado. *That* was Hamilton’s mistake. On track, Hamilton did nothing wrong, but in the head, he made the wrong decision.

  3. Eggry (@eggry) said on 24th June 2012, 18:34

    I’m excited about the race but also I have fear that it maybe Vettel and Red Bull making remarkable lead over others. I hope this is not the case yet. We need more intense races.

    • suka (@suka) said on 24th June 2012, 19:31

      That’s for sure coming up. Nevertheless, Alonso for the driver of the weekend I have to advocate.

      • libertywho (@libertywho) said on 24th June 2012, 19:40

        How can he be a driver of the weekend, if he qualifies 12th. As far as I could see it should be Vettel, albeit not finishing the race.

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 24th June 2012, 20:16

          I believe they both have a solid claim to be DOTW. Had Alonso finished second behind Vettel, it still would have been a great drive from 11th, and he would have been considered driver of the day.

        • mantresx said on 24th June 2012, 20:25

          good point

          • Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 24th June 2012, 21:02

            I’m excited about the race but also I have fear that it maybe Vettel and Red Bull making remarkable lead over others.

            I hate the fact that Red Bull now once again have blown diffuser. Vettel would never have been half as dominant as he was without it. Remember Canada two weeks ago? He also qualified on pole, but was mediocre in the race. Red Bull cheaters.

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 24th June 2012, 22:38

            @kingshark – Accusations of cheating = sarcasm detected

    • JCost (@jcost) said on 24th June 2012, 21:48

      +1

      Before SC was deployed Vettel was in another planet.

      • ivz (@ivz) said on 25th June 2012, 0:11

        Red Bull obviously still use some form of blowing on the floor. I mean how stupid can the FIA be? If they wanted to avoid it all together, make the teams have the exhaust at the back of the car like a road car!

    • xeroxpt (@) said on 25th June 2012, 0:08

      You might just be spot on, maybe Red Bull were just crusing trageting 20 sec lead taking advantage of the fights behind etc, unfortunately for them, the new faster updates may have lead them to retiring, possibly because of the lack of testing of the new rear end exacerbated by the long safety car period. Nontheless they are surely able to get that new system reliable and from then on, this wonder season as you said might be over they are more than capable of it, with both drivers if it werent the DRS problem Webber might just gave an one-two to Red Bull.

  4. Nixon (@nixon) said on 24th June 2012, 18:35

    Thanks Kieth. Shame I missed the race. :(

  5. Slr (@slr) said on 24th June 2012, 18:38

    Great close racing today, in other series there would have been 5 or 6 safety cars due to numerous accidents. There were some stupid incidents however. I’m not sure what Vergne was thinking when he hit Kovalainen, some have suggested that it was intentional, though I’m not sure about that. Maldonado and Hamilton’s accident was also silly. I appreciate that Maldonado wants to race hard, but sometimes he needs to back off.

    The stewards were also frustrating as they took ages to come to a conclusion on Hamilton speeding under yellow flags. Also Senna didn’t deserve a penalty, it was a racing incident. With that in mind, why didn’t we see onboard footage from Kobayashi’s car in both of his incidents. I remember FOM also cutting away as Raikkonen passed someone into turn two.

    I talk about my thoughts on positive aspects of the race, but then I’d be writing about it for ages.

  6. Renner (@renner) said on 24th June 2012, 18:39

    Fernando Alonso finished all 20 races since Canada 2011 in the top ten. He was 12 times on the podium and only finished twice outside of the top 5.

  7. xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 24th June 2012, 19:16

    It would have been interesting to see Vettel vs Alonso. Shame about Grosjean an vettel pulling out.
    Vergnes move on Kovalainen was absaloutely ridiculous, and then when he got the puncture, he was driving far too fast for the state of his car. that is completely irresponsible, and he was right to recieve a penalty

  8. Hotbottoms (@hotbottoms) said on 24th June 2012, 19:20

    I think Räikkönen would’ve won the race, if Fernando hadn’t passed him during the first
    pit stops due to Lotus’ slow performance on the pits. Of course no one expected at the
    time that they were racing for victory. I hope the upcoming analysis will take this into
    consideration.

    • suka (@suka) said on 24th June 2012, 19:36

      “if Fernando hadn’t passed him during the first
      pit stops due to Lotus’ slow performance on the pits”

      and all the superman passing moves from the very start of the race may I add.

    • Santiago Ontanon (@santiontanon) said on 24th June 2012, 22:02

      IF we have to take into account all the “if”s, the analysis would be impossible. That’s what happened and that’s it. Otherwise, you start branching: what id Mclaren didn’t mess up with Lewis pitstop? what id there was no safety car? etc.

      • Hotbottoms (@hotbottoms) said on 25th June 2012, 9:18

        I think Keith has always done a great job in explaining his readers why a certain driver came in a position he did. It’s quite possible to do with enough time, intelligence, neutrality and understanding of F1.

        I’m not trying to take anything away from Alonso’s fantastic drive. I’m just curious to know whether the excellent performance of the Ferrari pit crew ensured their victory and whether Lotus’ bad performance on the pits once again cost them a position.

  9. carbon_fibre (@carbon_fibre) said on 24th June 2012, 19:25

    The race could not get any better for Alonso.He won in his home country and his main championship rivals did not earn a single point!

  10. zicasso (@zicasso) said on 24th June 2012, 19:29

    Alonso’s determination is incredible. I can only say he (mixed with luck) deserved to win.

    • JCost (@jcost) said on 24th June 2012, 21:57

      Great drive. His move on Grosjean after relaunch was incredible but luck was all over. (1) McLaren and Lotus slow pit service to Lewis and Kimi (2) Vettel and Grosjean DNF…

  11. carlitos way said on 24th June 2012, 19:32

    If there ever was any doubt, Alonso today showed why he is the best driver in the world. Relentless speed, extracting every last drop of performance off the car (and more), which is a common characteristic among the greats and will to win. Even his detractors will have to admit what a fantastic driver he is.
    Bravo Fernando!

    • F1fanNL (@) said on 24th June 2012, 21:35

      Alonso today showed why he is the best driver in the world. Relentless speed, extracting every last drop of performance off the car

      You mean just like Vettel did? More than a second a lap quicker than Hamilton at the beginning and even after Grosjean passed Hamilton Vettel was still pulling away at something like half a second a lap. His lap times were steadily going down all through his stint just like his fuel level.

      The SC saved the rest from waving Vettel by as he was well on his way to score his second Grand Slam.

  12. Congrats to Alonso on a great race and victory. The most reliable driver of the sport. Great drives from michael and kimi. Good to see them happy again! Very dissapointed at Hamilton and mclaren. The pit stops are catastrophic and Hamilton cannot contain his frustration any longer and makes irrational moves. I am a mclaren fan for 20 years and I am getting to a point where I want this relationship to end. It is not healthy for either party… After the malaysia win, it looks like we are back at square-1.

  13. Malibu_GP said on 24th June 2012, 19:40

    Superb indeed! I think it is widely known that LH is My favorite, but Fernando
    today was other worldly. He ranked very high on Forbes list of most successful
    athletes, and deserves every penny he is paid! The precision, and consistency
    he displays surely makes him the best all around in the sport. SV is incredible at
    qualifying, and LH is scary fast and a masterful overtaker. The Spanish wonder
    however is clearly just a step beyond…, and those starts. I’ve watched for many
    years and He is one of the greatest F1 has ever seen…

  14. Metallion (@metallion) said on 24th June 2012, 19:43

    Really enjoyed that race, I was hoping for Kimi to win but despite not liking Alonso that much, it was great to see him win today and very happy for Schumacher too. So funny when he realised that he was supposed to be speaking in German at the end of the post race interview:)

    Also, a question for the ones who know all about stats, does anyone know when was the last time that all drivers on the podium were current or former Ferrari drivers?

    • LSL1337 (@lsl1337) said on 24th June 2012, 20:18

      I’ve got a bet question, 10 WDC titles on the podium, has this EVER happened before?, i think it hasn’t, well not in the last 20 years, that’s for sure

    • LSL1337 (@lsl1337) said on 24th June 2012, 20:19

      I’ve got a better question, 10 WDC titles on the podium, has this EVER happened before?, i think it hasn’t, well not in the last 20 years, that’s for sure

      • Tom (@newdecade) said on 24th June 2012, 20:40

        Mathematically it is only possible if Schumi (7) Prost (4, and two champs with 3 apiece) or Fangio (5) were on the podium! However Prost retired after winning his 4th, rendering that impossible. Was it ever possible in Fangio’s day?? Even now, it is only possible with both Schumi and Alonso on the podium (no other current runners have >1 title)!

      • Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 24th June 2012, 21:02

        I guess we could have 11 if Schumacher makes it again this year, and Alonso and Vettel are up there with him.

  15. Henri said on 24th June 2012, 19:43

    Fantasic drive by FA! Great race.

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