Ferrari’s ace, Fernando Alonso drove to an exciting and emotional win at the Formula1 Grand Prix of Europe in Valencia, Spain. His closest rivals on the leader board, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, failed to finish. The Spaniard now leads the championship going into the next round from Mark Webber.
Accompanying him on the podium were two drivers who have returned from retirement! Finnish ace, Kimi Raikkonen drove to a strong second place, even threatening Alonso for the win at one time. Seven-time world champion and ex-Ferrari champion Michael Schumacher, took a much-deserved third place.
At the start, it was Sebastian Vettel who peeled away from the pack posting consecutive fastest lap times and building up a steady lead from Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean in the Lotus Renault. But all eyes were on local hero Alonso who started from P11.
An aggressive start from Kimi Raikkonen saw him ultimately lose out a couple of places to his teammate and Pastor Maldonado. Grosjean soon overtook Maldonado and was on a mission to hunt down Lewis in the faster McLaren. Both Ferraris overtook a slow starting Michael Schumacher who’s Mercedes was shorn with the Medium option tyre from Pirelli.
Lap 6, and Vettel posted a new fastest lap of 1m 46:168s
Nico Rosberg had lost five places so far and the team radioed him to watch out for the rear tyre wear so early in the race. The Force India’s were warned over the radio about high rear brake temperatures. Soon, the whole field were in a processional race while defending Red Bull champion was in a different race altogether stitching one fast lap after the other.
At the back of the field, the lone Marussia of Charles Pic managed to knock off the front end plate of Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT. Teammate Timo Glock didn’t start the race as he was still fighting his stomach bug.
Alonso had now made his way to the back of Nico Hulkenberg and was ready to grab P8. Lap 10, and Grosjean overtook Hamilton for P2. Button and Perez both pitted for Medium compound tyres. McLaren talk to Hamilton regarding a change to the angle of his front wing to improve handling. While Massa dived in to the pits for fresh rubber, Alonso made his move on Hulkenberg.
In a circuit that was deemed boring for the past couple of years, there was no shortage of overtaking manoeuvres up and down the grid. Kimi squeezed past Maldonado for P5 and Perez posted a new fastest lap of 1m 44:630s
Up ahead, the fighting Spaniard on his home turf snatched P3 from Maldonado. This sent the grandstands to their feet. There was a sea of Red and yellow flags for Ferrari and Spain everywhere. In the pit lane, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Kobayashi and Maldonado all queued up for new tyres simultaneously. Alonso pitted for soft yellow tyres on lap 15 and rejoined in P9. In contrast, Vettel the race leader pitted for soft yellow tyres too, and rejoined back in P1. Such was his dominating pace.
The medium tyre compound on Schumacher’s car began to degrade and this led to a procession of nine cars stuck behind the German. Bruno Senna got into a tangle with Kobayashi that saw the Sauber’s front wing being knocked off. Elsewhere on the track Jean Eric Vergne and Heikki Kovalainen clashed. This brought the Safety Car out. Grosjean and Hamilton dived into the pits from P2 and P3 respectively. Hamilton endured another frustrating pit stop in which his left front tyre would not go on. He lost positions to Alonso and Raikkonen.
Lap 30, and Vettel pitted again and rejoined again in P1. This was his race to lose.
Once the cars had restored the correct race order behind the Safety Car, tension mounted for the restart. Could Grosjean jump the Red Bull? Would Alonso attack the Lotus? All doubts were diverted as race leader Vettel’s RB8 came to a grinding halt by the track with a mechanical failure!
Fernando Alonso soon overtook Grosjean and with that claimed the lead. The crowds went wild with joy. This is what they had gathered for. Lap 35, and Alonso leads from Grosjean and Hamilton. Behind them was a fast approaching Raikkonen in the other Lotus. It was Mark Webber’s turn now to lose traction. Maldonado, Di Resta and Jenson Button overtake him and he loses three positions.
Alonso posted a new fastest lap time of 1m 43:666s. His lead to the Lotus driver was just .7 seconds. It was drama again as this time another Renault engine came to a halt. Romain Grosjean went off track with an alternator problem. The race order was now Alonso from Hamilton, Raikkonen, Maldonado, Hulkenberg, Di Resta, Perez, Schumacher, Webber and Button.
Schumacher and Webber were on a charge as tyre degradation came into play. They both overtook Perez. Hamilton locked up his tyres in front of Kimi and within a lap, the Finn took P2 from him. Maldonado tried to follow the Finn but the English driver resisted. In an uncalculated racing move, Hamilton is punted off track and thus ended his race. He was livid.
On the final lap, Michael Schumacher fought off Mark Webber for P3 and his first podium since 2006. But up ahead in the distance, basking in the sunshine of Valencia, the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso came to an emotional stop. Right in front of a huge grandstand of Spanish fans. He got out, waved the national flag and even jumped along with them. He later declared it his most memorable win.