Alonso snatches exciting victory in European Grand Prix

 

Fernando Alonso grabbed arguably the most stunning victory of his Formula One career on a day of high-drama in the European Grand Prix.

From 11th on the grid a combination of brilliant driving and good fortune enabled Alonso to clinch his 19th F1 win, this in front of his adoring Spanish fans.

Less than 24 hours after another Alonso in Xabi had scored both goals in Spain's 2-0 Euro 2012 quarter-final victory over France, Fernando again had his country dancing with joy.

Alonso was followed home by Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen, with Michael Schumacher remarkably on the podium for the first time since he stepped out of retirement two and a half years ago for Mercedes.

It has allowed Ferrari star Alonso to make a decisive move in the championship as he leads by 20 points from Red Bull's Mark Webber as two of his biggest rivals in Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel both failed to finish.

For once around the normally dull-as-ditchwater Valencia Street Circuit there was more excitement in this one race than in the previous four combined.

Although for 28 laps that was hardly the case for Vettel as the German was in a world of his own, sailing off to what appeared to be a third consecutive victory.

But one bump of the wheels involving Caterham's Heikki Kovalainen and Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne turned the race on its head.

It resulted in a front-left puncture for Kovalainen and a rear-right for Vergne, the latter making a total hash of his return to the pits, leaving debris all over the track.

With rubber and carbon fibre everywhere it forced the safety car into play to allow the stewards to clear.

Unsurprisingly virtually all of the leaders made a second stop at that stage, with the exception of Vettel.

However, with a 20-second cushion over Lotus' Romain Grosjean such was his dominance he had enough time in hand to wait for a lap and still emerge out in front.

When the safety car pitted after 33 laps Vettel again eased away, but just for one and a half laps as he ground to a halt, enduring only a second retirement in his last 29 races.

Attempting to explain, Vettel said: "I lost drive and I had to stop. Why? I don't know.

"There's not much we could have done better, but with reliability we all work on the limit.

"Up to that point we had had a perfect start, perfect pit stop, a perfect race.

"We've made a good step and hopefully we can carry that momentum into the next grand prix (British on July 8)."

For the most part chaos had ensued at various stages over the first half of the race behind Vettel, with positional changes aplenty.

At one point, with Vettel away and clear, sixth to 14th were covered by six seconds and it was akin to watching dodgems as they weaved their way around the track.

But Vergne's misdemeanour changed everything, not least for Hamilton as a furious round of pit stops ensued with the safety car on track.

The team have made countless errors that have cost the 27-year-old this season, and on this occasion a front jack failure added to his woes, although there was worse to come later.

With Vettel out it left Lotus' Romain Grosjean to chase Alonso for the lead, but an alternator issue resulted in his race being run after 40 laps.

That elevated Hamilton into second, but with Raikkonen on his tail as he tyres fell off a cliff in the dying stages.

The Finn eased up to second on lap 55, leaving Hamilton clinging onto a podium as he fought with Williams's Pastor Maldonado.

On the penultimate lap, and as they went wheel to wheel through turns 12 and 13, Maldonado crashed into the side of Hamilton, forcing him out of the race.

It means Hamilton is 23 points behind Alonso, with Vettel 26 down going into the next race at Silverstone in a fortnight.

Behind a joyous Schumacher, Webber grabbed fourth after starting 19th, the Australian followed by Force India's Nico Hulkenberg.

Alonso, who had been forced to stop his car on his warm-down lap although it allowed him to celebrate with the Spanish fans, said: "It's difficult to express in words my feelings.

"This is a special team - Ferrari - with the grandstands full of Spanish flags and the fans in red.

"I'm feeling very proud to be a Spanish sportsman, and this is the best victory I've felt in terms of emotions."

Raikkonen did not feel a win was possible as he said: "In the end second place is okay, but not what we wanted."

As for Schumacher, riddled with wretched luck this year and with just two points to his name prior to today, he was jubilant.

"I didn't actually think about the podium at all," said the 43- year-old seven-times champion.

"I crossed the line at the end and I asked the team where I'd finished, and they said third, a podium.

"That was something I didn't expect. It's these moments you enjoy deeply, a wonderful feeling to be back after such a long time.

"It was pretty exciting, and probably the best way to do it."

Team-mate Nico Rosberg passed Paul di Resta in his Force India on the final lap to finish sixth, with McLaren's Jenson Button eighth, followed by Sauber's Sergio Perez and Maldonado.

The stewards, however, are investigating the Hamilton/Maldonado incident, with the Venezuelan seemingly at fault after coming from off the track to attack the 27-year-old.

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence