Local hero Fernando Alonso sparked more Spanish celebrations here yesterday when he became the first man to win two Formula One races this year by driving his Ferrari to victory in the European Grand Prix.
Less than 24 hours after his national soccer team had secured their place in the semi-finals at Euro 2012, the two-time drivers’ champion gave a sun-basking crowd in Valencia every reason to enjoy another party.
Alonso came home first ahead of Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus and third-placed seven-time champion Michael Schumacher of Mercedes.
Mark Webber, who started 19th, came home fourth for Red Bull ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Nico Rosberg who was sixth for Mercedes. “I cannot put into words the special feeling of winning your home Grand Prix,” said Alonso. The Spaniard, who drove a superb race from 11th on the grid, added: “It is unique and special. The stands were full of colour and Spanish flags and, after the footballers won at Euro 2012, I am feeling very proud to be Spanish at the moment. This is possibly the best victory I have ever had.”
Alonso’s win lifted him to the top of the drivers’ championship standings with 111 points ahead of Webber on 91 with Lewis Hamilton now third on 88, having come into the race as the leader.
The race was punctuated by incident, with Hamilton of McLaren crashing out after a final lap collision with Pastor Maldonado of Williams. The incident hoisted 43-year-old Schumacher into the top three making him the oldest podium finisher since Australian Jack Brabham, in 1970, when he was 44. It was the German veteran’s first podium since he returned to the sport with Mercedes in 2010. Defending double world champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull was forced to retire after dominating most of the race after starting from pole position as also was his nearest challenger Romain Grosjean of Lotus.
Vettel, who retired on lap 35, said: “We don’t know what happened yet. I lost drive and then the engine stalled the switched off. We don’t know what the problem is.”
1: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), 2: Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus), 3: Michael Schumacher (Mercedes), 4: Mark Webber (Red Bull), 5: Nico Hülkenberg (Force India), 6: Paul di Resta (Force India), 7: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), 8: Jenson Button (McLaren), 9: Sergio Perez (Sauber), 10: Pastor Maldonado (Williams), 18: Narain Karthikeyan (HRT)