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.

2012 European Grand Prix

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76 comments on Alonso clinches superb win in Valencia

  1. smokinjoe (@smokinjoe) said on 24th June 2012, 19:48

    The McLaren pit crew would struggle to hold on to jobs at Kwik-Fit. How many times must they cock-up before they get a better team in? Mclaren pit crew made more mistakes then all the other teams pit crew combined and they are not even half way through the season They cost Lewis the chance to be leading or have time for another stop. Either of these outcomes should’ve seen him well clear of Pastarnado for the rest of the race.

  2. Stunning race and an amazing drive by Fernando Alonso…Well done Fernando!!!

  3. PMccarthy_is_a_legend (@pmccarthy_is_a_legend) said on 24th June 2012, 19:59

    Hamilton is soooo frustrated with Mclaren. Its clear for everyone to see from his interactions with the team over the radio and his body language out of the car, not to mention in his driving. I am not blaming him for the collision with Maldonado today and I am a massive Hamilton fan, but its clear for everyone to see he squeezed Maldonado out wide on the first part of the corner and left no room on the second part. Knowing how impatient Maldonado is, that was a recipe for disaster right there. Mclaren has been letting Hamilton down on a number of occasions this year, they have to pull their socks up ASAP, Lewis is driving well and deserves better.

    • themagicofspeed (@) said on 24th June 2012, 20:13

      In fairness to the McLaren team, what happened today was not their fault. Lewis made a driving error and it would be grossly unfair to pin the blame on the team. Maldonado had the line, Hamilton knew he was there and there was not a lot he could do about it. I dont know why he didnt recognise this and pick up 4th place instead of ending up in the wall. This season is all about consistency and the points he would have gained by not fighting Maldonado for a place he was not going to be able to keep anyway would have been valuable, no matter how few.

      • andrewf1 (@andrewf1) said on 24th June 2012, 22:21

        How on Earth can you say that Maldonado had the line? Goodness Grace, the line was the inside line, and Hamilton had it, defended it very well and planted his car perfectly. Malfunction-ado left the track with all 4 wheels and T-boned his opponent. It’s absurd and clear as daylight who’s fault it was – fact also confirmed by the stewards.

        • themagicofspeed (@) said on 24th June 2012, 22:52

          My point is that if you look at the replays, Maldonado had been side by side with him pretty much for 2 or more corners, and at the apex of the corner at which Hamilton crashed Maldonado was ahead. Maldonado was going to pass him wether he liked it or not, it was way too late for Hamilton to close the door on him and to avoid a collision and walk away with 4th place and some points he should have let it go, and cautiously tried to get the place back. Personally im pretty pleased with the way the whole situation turned out but for himself, he should have conceded the place and picked up the points. If he didnt, it was inevitable he would crash and he did. By the rules of racing Maldonado was at fault, but by the rules of common sense and how to win a championship, Hamilton should have let it go and bagged the points.

          • Robbie (@robbie) said on 25th June 2012, 18:54

            I think that is perhaps being said looking at it with the luxury of hindsight. I think that with 3 laps to go LH’s instinct was to try to get it home with maximum points…try to hold PM for that small number of laps. I think if there were more laps remaining he might have conceded that PM was inevitably going to overtake him, and he might have accepted that and not tried to fight it. I don’t think LH did anything wrong given the time left in the race. He was trying to keep PM behind him, which is the goal, no? And I certainly don’t think LH could have anticipated PM’s over-anxiousness to get by…PM could also have picked an easier spot to pass…and that might be said by me in hindsight too.

  4. Force Maikel (@force-maikel) said on 24th June 2012, 19:59

    I think we all can agree a classic has been born. In twenty years time we will still remember this one.

  5. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 24th June 2012, 20:10

    I thought the safety car would save Hamilton from Alonso, as Alonso was pulling him in at half a second a lap, and I thought the medium tyres would quite easily last the distance, especially with the safety car staying out as long as it did, but tyre degradation was higher than I (and many in the pitlane, it seems) expected.

    Ferrari watched carefully for signs of the dreaded tyre degradation which cost him victory in Canada

    I found it interesting that in the press conference, Alonso revealed that they had been on the verge of making a late tyre stop, as he could feel the rear tyres going off, but that he was told by his team to wait another lap to see what Hamilton and Raikkonen were doing. This was around the time that we heard the radio message telling Hamilton he was gaining on Alonso. Indeed he was gaining, and he even drove Raikkonen out of the DRS detection range. Was this brief burst of speed (or reduction in tyre preservation?) what caused Hamilton’s rear tyres to implode three laps too early? Either way, I realize that for the impartial fan, this makes the race spectacular to watch, but personally I am gutted to have seen Hamilton going from a valuable podium to a DNF in two laps time.

  6. jvumix (@jvumix) said on 24th June 2012, 20:23

    Fernando was dealt a fair hand today, though it was just reward for his great determination and aggression during the race. I also feel like its just reward for how badly he lost out during the safety car period in 2010, after following the rules to the letter, while others did not and benefitted greatly!

    His ill fated stint at Mclaren and two years in an uncompetitive Renault have really turned him into a totally different person. He just will not let any opportunity to fight for WDC pass him by. Fear for his rivals if that Ferrari ever gets gets to compete for Pole.

    AND stewards shuold stop punishing drivers for racing aggressively! People racing at such great speeds will every once in while come together!!!

  7. the_sigman (@sigman1998) said on 24th June 2012, 21:03

    That was an amazing drive! Nothing more to say

  8. the_sigman (@sigman1998) said on 24th June 2012, 21:09

    Also, the three podium finishers were only for the second time together on the podium (the other was in France 2005 with the same order).

  9. ME4ME (@me4me) said on 24th June 2012, 21:55

    This was a great race, especially for Valencia. Im a bit dissapointed by the end results though. In my oppinion Vettel really deserved this one, being faultless all trough the weekend. I do admire Alonso’s great effort and determination ..but that was not what gave him the win today.

  10. Thecollaroyboys (@thecollaroyboys) said on 24th June 2012, 22:13

    Epic drive from Alonso, a well measured and deserved win. Also a huge drive from Webber making up 15 places in a dodgy car. Very mature drives from both of them.

  11. Scheurmuis said on 24th June 2012, 22:14

    Alonso stopped his Ferrari after the race on the circuit. Then he started partying already at the circuit.
    I have’nt read a thing bout this.
    Was his Ferrari realy broken or dont we hear anything bout it because of the fact that his car is RED.
    And red cars never get punished. Fair is fair, but I think Kimi should get the victory because of this.

  12. Bibah ru said on 24th June 2012, 23:10

    Schumacher, wow! It took a while coming, and i dont know if he’ll win another race though i’m hoping he will, but a worthy podium to add to his illustrious life. He stood on the podium in Piquet Sr,Senna and Prost’s generation, he stood on the podium with Hill, Mika and Villeneuve, he stood on the podium in the generation of Alonso, Kimi and Massa and now he once more stood on the podium among the new kids ( some of them young enough to be his sons ) Grosjean, Vettel, Hamilton etc..

  13. bull mello (@bullmello) said on 24th June 2012, 23:45

    Lots to like about this race. Plenty of overtaking and great racing between drivers with only a few incidents. Hamilton and Maldonado both share blame for their incident. Hamilton would have been wise to take points over being right or wrong while defending a position he was quite unlikely to hold until the end of the race. Alonso is not one of my favorite people on the planet, but he is certainly one of my favorite drivers to watch. Loved his description and comments about F1 in the post race interview. Thought Kimi drove a good race. He or Romain Grosjean, one of my favorite new F1 drivers, are going to win a race soon. It was even kind of nice to see Michael Schumacher back on the podium after six years. It was enjoyable to see such a racy race without relying solely on the DRS zone for a passing area. Congratulations for McClaren for their fast pitstop. Then back to poor form for the next one. Maybe they should go for consistent quickness. Anyways, very fun race to watch!

  14. Great job from Ferrari and F. Alonso! Finally a good and dramatic European GP in Valencia where we usually have boring races!
    Watching the previous races again I am thinking that FIA forbidded refuels in order to stop strategy games from teams. But as a matter of fact pirelli tyres do that better than refuels. Drivers are not pushing any more but they are waiting in case other driver’s tyres ”die” to make their move to overtake them, at least in the last stages of the race!
    The race today was great in my opinion! Finally Shcuey managed to finish a race without incidents even though he had a contact in the start! Kimi was great as well as Webber did a good race..Unlucky Hamilton and Vettel lost valuable points, Vettel was pushing hard to make a good difference from Grosjean in such a hot day and Hamilton, I think 20sec penalty for Maldonando was a small fine! Massa and Button where nowhere…

  15. Hotbottoms (@hotbottoms) said on 25th June 2012, 9:16

    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 pit once again cost them a position.

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