Fernando Alonso has become a popular, albeit unlikely, winner at tonight’s European Grand Prix in Valencia. The Ferrari man started from P11 in front of a parochial Spanish crowd and made the most of a highly dramatic race that looked for all money as though it was safely in Sebastian Vettel’s pocket.
The race-defining drama took place after an incident between a clumsy Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) and Heikki Kovaleinen (Caterham), which brought out the Safety Car. Vettel, previously enjoying a lead of over 20 seconds, made a clean restart and looked as though he would drive on to an unchallenged victory.
Romain Grosjean had positioned his Lotus nicely in P2 after the restart with Alonso close behind. The dual world champion quickly gave Grosjean a masterclass in restarting from a Safety Car period and turned a half chance into what turned out to be a race winning overtake.
Not long after Alonso moved into P2 he was greeted by the sight of a slowing Red Bull and Vettel was powerless to defend his position, coasting to retirement. It would have been Vettel’s third win in a row at this event. The crowd couldn’t have cared less about that and went wild when Alonso took the lead, he was then able to stay ahead of the mayhem behind him and claim his 29th F1 win.
More chaos ensued with contact between several drivers and fading tyres responsible for sorting out the minor placings.
In the closing stages of the race Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) was in P2 but became vulnerable after his tyres lost their performance. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) was the first to speed past and Pastor Maldonado (Williams) soon had Hamilton in his sights. Maldonado just needed patience to complete the overtake. Turned out he didn’t have any and the two collided; a clearly agitated Hamilton finished his race in the wall, Maldonado struggled home to P10 without a front wing.
Michael Schumacher (Mercedes AMG) and Mark Webber (Red Bull) were making the most of their fresher tyres and completed late moves on the Force India duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta.
Unbeknown to him at the time, Schumacher finished the race in P3 and Webber, somehow, ended in P4. The Aussie started from P19, remember, and seemed to get his tyre strategy all wrong. In the end his need to come in relatively late for new tyres gave him a pretty tidy points haul.
After the post-race press conference we thought we were celebrating Schumacher’s 155th career podium, his first since China in 2006. However, it has since come to light that Michael may have used his DRS under yellow flag conditions. If so that will most likely push Webber into P3.
It was an amazing race and we won’t be at all surprised if you’re none the wiser as to what happened, even after reading this hastily cobbled together report.
What we do know is that Alonso now leads the drivers’ championship (111pts). Surprisingly, Webber (91pts) finds himself in second, ahead of Hamilton (88pts).
A provisional finishing order from Valencia is listed below, along with updated championship standings.
UPDATE: Schumacher’s third place stands; stewards found he did use his DRS under yellow flag conditions, but Schumacher slowed down sufficiently to make a penalty unwarranted. Maldonado has been given a 20 second penalty, which moves him down to P12, teammate Bruno Senna moves up to P10.
2012 European Grand Prix final placings*
- Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 57 laps – 25pts
- Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) +6.421 – 18pts
- Michael Schumacher (Mercedes AMG) +12.639 – 15pts
- Mark Webber (Red Bull) +13.628 – 12pts
- Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) +19.993 – 10pts
- Nico Rosberg (Mercedes AMG) +21.176 – 8pts
- Paul di Resta (Force India) +22.866 – 6pts
- Jenson Button (McLaren) +24.653 – 4pts
- Sergio Perez (Sauber) +27.777 – 2pts
- Bruno Senna (Williams) +35.961 – 1pt
- Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) +37.041
- Pastor Maldonado (Williams) +54.653
- Vitaly Petrov (Caterham) +1:15.871
- Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham) +1:34.654
- Charles Pic (Marussia) +1:36.551
- Felipa Massa (Ferrari) +1 lap
- Pedro de la Rosa (HRT) +1 lap
- Narain Karthikeyan (HRT) +1 lap
- Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) +2 laps
Romain Grosjean (Lotus), lap 41
Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), lap 34
Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber), lap 34
Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso), lap 27
Timo Glock (Marussia), lap 1
Fastest lap: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes AMG), 1:42.163 (lap 54)
*Maldonado moved from P10 to P12 after being handed a 20 second penalty after the race for his incident with Lewis Hamilton.
2012 World Championship (Drivers’ top 10) – Round 8
- Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) – 111
- Mark Webber (Red Bull) – 91
- Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) – 88
- Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) – 85
- Nico Rosberg (Mercedes AMG) – 75
- Kimi Räikkönen (Lotus) – 73
- Romain Grosjean (Lotus) – 53
- Jenson Button (McLaren) – 49
- Sergio Perez (Sauber) – 39
- Pastor Maldonado (Williams) – 29
2012 World Championship (Constructors’) – Round 8
- Red Bull Racing-Renault – 176
- McLaren-Mercedes – 137
- Lotus-Renault – 126
- Ferrari – 122
- Mercedes AMG – 92
- Sauber-Ferrari – 60
- Williams-Renault – 45
- Force India-Mercedes – 44
- STR-Ferrari – 6