Alonso wins action-packed European Grand Prix
24 June 2012 – Fernando Alonso has become the first two-time race winner of 2012, winning the European Grand Prix in Valencia from 11th on the grid. After Sebastian Vettel retired, having previously held a 20-second lead, Kimi Räikkönen stole second place from Lewis Hamilton, who then crashed while battling with Pastor Maldonado. The incident helped Michael Schumacher seal a first podium result since returning to Formula 1.
A clean start saw Vettel pull away from Hamilton, stretching out a very comfortable advantage until his pit-stop on Lap 15; he duly remained in the lead when leaving the pits. Behind, Romain Grosjean had grabbed third place off the line before pulling a superb move on Hamilton around the outside of Turn 12. The Safety Car was then deployed when Jean-Éric Vergne drove into Heikki Kovalainen, leaving both drivers with punctures.
On the run-up to the race weekend, Romain Grosjean had been tipped as a favourite by many; now running second, he possessed fresher tyres than Alonso and was looking to mount a challenge. However, the Franco-Swiss suffered an alternator failure and stopped at the back of the marina on Lap 41. It was at this point that Schumacher dived into the pits for fresh tyres before building up a remarkable recover drive.
In the closing stages, Alonso led and controlled the pace as second placed Hamilton’s tyres began to fall off the cliff. Kimi Räikkönen, making up for some of the disappointment suffered by Grosjean, stole the position at Turn 12. Maldonado, who had started third and ran in the top five for most of the race, then attacked in the same place on the penultimate lap; halfway alongside Hamilton but given little space at Turn 13, the two cars touched as the McLaren flew into the barriers – an incident not dissimilar to that of Monaco 2011. A furious Hamilton was left to walk back to the pits as Maldonado, with a broken front wing, finished tenth.
Alonso’s 29th F1 victory means he is the man who ends the run of seven different victors at the start of the 2012 campaign. He last won on home turf for Renault, having celebrated victory six years ago at the Circuit de Catalunya. As the championship lead changes yet again, he now carries a 20-point lead over Mark Webber, whose own amazing drive saw him reach fourth from 19th on the grid.
The 2012 Formula 1 season continues with Round 10 at Silverstone, the home of British motor racing, in two weeks’ time