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Euro GP: Alonso Wins As Rivals Retire

Sunday 24th June 2012

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Euro GP: Alonso Wins As Rivals Retire

Euro GP: Alonso Wins As Rivals Retire

Fernando Alonso became the first repeat winner of the season when he clinched the European GP victory in the most exciting race ever seen in Valencia.

Sebastian Vettel had been on course for a comfortable victory on a hot sunny day at Valencia, 20 seconds ahead of Romain Grosjean when the Safety Car came out and changed the entire complexion of the race.

Running behind the Safety Car led to alternator failures for both Vettel and Grosjean allowing Alonso to take the win after he had fought his way through from P11 with a series of virtuoso overtaking moves. In the latter stages of the race Pastor Maldonado threw away a certain podium position by driving into the side of Lewis Hamilton, handing the place to a very surprised Michael Schumacher

Race Report
The sun was shining down on Valencia with the ambient temperature rising to 27C just before the start and the track at 44C.

Six rows of Grid
1.Vettel, 2.Hamilton, 3.Maldonado, 4.Grosjean, 5.Raikkonen, 6.Rosberg, 7.Kobayashi, 8.Hulkenberg, 9.Button, 10.DiResta, 11.Alonso, 12.Schumacher

As the lights went out Vettel got a great start and led Hamilton into Turn 1. Hamilton had to defend against Maldonado but kept the position. Kimi Raikkonen started much better than Romain Grosjean and looked to be squeezing past Maldonado when the Venezuelan moved across and Kimi had to lift off.

This allowed Grosjean back in front of Raikkonen, plus Kobayashi and instead of ending the first lap in P3 he was back in P6. The two Ferraris both got great starts with Alonso choosing the right line at every opportunity. Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg both lost out and went backwards.

Positions at the end of Lap 1: 1.Vettel, 2.Hamilton, 3.Grosjean, 4.Kobayashi, 5.Maldonado, 6.Raikkonen, 7.Hulkenberg, 8.Alonso, 9.DiResta, 10.Massa, 11.Rosberg, 12.Schumacher, 13.Button, 14.Senna, 15.Perez

Maldonado was using a lot of the track to keep Raikkonen behind him and pushed Raikkonen over the kerbs as they ran alongside through the 18/19/20 sequence of corners. He kept the place.

At the front, Sebastian Vettel set off at a gallop and by Lap 2 he had a four second lead over Hamilton. By Lap 4 it was 6.8 seconds. Although Romain Grosjean was first in line behind Lewis Hamilton in what was quite a large queue of cars, nobody was making any moves forward. On Lap 6 Jenson Button was able to find a way past Michael Schumacher for P12.

Felipe Massa was anxious to get past Paul DiResta who was driving conservatively, but couldn't find a way past the Scot. Mark Webber had got ahead of Heikki Kovalainen at the start but was still stuck back in P17.

By Lap 8 Vettel's gap was 9.6 seconds and Romain Grosjean was right on Lewis Hamilton's gearbox. On Lap 10 Romain launched an overtaking move around the outside of Hamilton running down to Turn 12 and made it stick. Hamilton was very fair and didn't fight the place too hard.

Kimi Raikkonen was also moving forward passing Maldonado on the outside of Turn 13 with a remarkable overtaking move on lap 13.

Jenson Button had started the first round of pit-stops on Lap 10 and Sebastian Vettel was the last of the front-runners (along with Romain Grosjean) on Lap 16.

Positions at the end of Lap 16: 1.Vettel, 2.Grosjean, 3.DiResta (not stopped), 4.Rosberg (not stopped), 5.Hamilton, 6.Schumacher (not stopped), 7.Senna (not stopped), 8.Webber (not stopped), 9.Fernando Alonso, 10.Raikkonen, 11.Kobayashi, 12.Maldonado, 13.MassaOn Lap 18 Fernando Alonso made another carefully executed passing manoeuvre, this time on Mark Webber into Turn 2 (for position as Webber had yet to stop) he got a slight flat spot on his tyres but carried on regardless.

Webber was in the mix of a fabulous assortment of cars that were yet to stop and those who had stopped. At the end of Lap 19 Michael Schumacher was at the front of a queue of lots of faster cars who wanted to get past him. Alonso managed to clear the traffic jam and get off after Lewis Hamilton.

Kobayashi closed on Senna and the Japanese driver tried to squeeze his car into a non-existent gap by the barrier and pushed Senna into a spin, damaging his front wing in the process. Senna's Williams lost the back end but incredibly managed to keep going, losing a few places in the process. Incredibly the stewards investigated the clash and decided that Bruno Senna was at fault.

Positions at the end of Lap 21: 1.Vettel, 2.Grosjean, 3.Hamilton, 4.DiResta(not stopped) 5.Fernando Alonso, 6.Raikkonen, 7.Maldonado, 8.Massa, 9.Hulkenberg, 10.Button, 11.Perez, 12.Rosberg

As the next laps began to unfold Fernando Alonso started to close in on Lewis Hamilton and in turn Kimi Raikkonen closed on Alonso. On Lap 27 Lewis put in a 1:46.2, while Fernando was able to do a 1:45.17

The race changed significantly on Lap 27 when John-Eric Vergne went to pass around the outside of Heikki Kovalainen's Caterham into Turn 12. The Toro Rosso looked like making the pass but as he came through Jean-Eric swerved right and hit the rival car puncturing tyres on both cars and damaging the suspension of the Caterham which started producing sparks from the rear. There was so much debris that the Safety Car was dispatched on Lap 29.

Cars immediately dived into the pitlane to change tyres and Hamilton and Alonso came in at the same time. Yet again it was another McLaren pitstop disaster with the front jack failing and dropping Hamilton's car off the tyres. They eventually got the new Pirellis on but Alonso was out past him. Raikkonen too.

As the cars lined up behind the Safety Car the positions were: 1.Vettel, 2.Grosjean, 3.Alonso, 4.Ricciardo (one stop), 5.Raikkonen, 6.Hamilton, 7.Rosberg (one stop), 8.Schumacher (one stop) , 9.Webber (one stop), 10.Maldonado, 11.Hulkenberg, 12.DiResta (one stop), 13.Kobayashi, 14.Massa, 15.Button

The Safety Car came in at the end of lap 33 and Vettel wasn't able to build his usual gap, in fact he almost caught the Safety Car up by the final turn. As they started off down the pit straight Fernando Alonso was very close to Grosjean who protected the inside line. That opened the door for Alonso who had already overtaken Mark Webber at Turn 2 around the outside. Despite this, the two cars touched mid-corner but both continued. Further back Kamui Kobaysahi drove his car into the side of Felipe Massa (this time earning him a penalty), while Hamilton was able to get a place back off Raikkonen.

Then the race changed again as Sebastian Vettel slowed to a stop with a failed alternator handing Fernando Alonso the lead. Seven laps later and Romain Grosjean was parking his Lotus with exactly the same problem. Both likely a victim of the Safety Car running.

While all this was happening Pastor Maldonado got past Mark Webber into the final turn, forced him wide and onto the run-off and as the Red Bull regained the track he was overtaken by both Force Indias and lost three places in one turn. Sergio Perez got past Jenson Button into the final turn to take P7 for what seemed like another late race charge.

Positions at the end of Lap 41: 1.Fernando Alonso, 2.Hamilton, 3.Raikkonen, 4.Maldonado, 5.Hulkenberg, 6.DiResta, 7.Perez, 8.Button, 9.Rosberg, 10.Petrov, 11.Schumacher, 12.Webber

Petrov had made three pitstops and was up to P10 but was being chased down by the late stopping Schumacher and Webber.

All eyes switched to the front to see if Hamilton and Raikkonen could catch Alonso, but the Ferrari driver seemed up to the task and managed to keep a four-second gap through to the closing stages. Sergio Perez managed to get as high up as P6 by overtaking DiResta, but then started dropping back. Button fell into the clutches of Schumacher and Webber on Lap 49 but was able to pass Perez before the end of the race.

Nicco Rosberg had stopped late for tyres, too and was tearing up the ground in his race to the front setting fastest laps in his pursuit of Button. He managed to overtake both Jenson and the one-stopping Paul DiResta to take P6 before the flag.

On Lap 52 Schumacher and Webber were 7th and 8th and closing in on Perez. In the final few laps of the race they overhauled DiResta, Perez, Nico Hulkenberg and then both Maldonado and Hamilton took themselves out of the equation.

Raikkonen finally made an overtaking move on Hamilton on Lap 55 but was too far back now from Alonso. Maldonado in P4 now put Hamilton under pressure. He tried round the outside of Turn 12 but Hamilton moved over to the edge of the track very much as the Venezuelan had done to Raikkonen earlier in the race.

Maldonado ran alongside Hamilton off the track, then rejoined and T-boned the side of the McLaren. It was an act of monumental stupidity from the Venezuelan driver who lost most of his front wing in the process. Had he waited, he could have passed him in any number of corners before the end.

As it was Hamilton's McLaren was slammed into the barriers and retirement and Maldonado limped home to P10 throwing away an almost certain podium place.

Although he didn't know it at the time, this put Michael Schumacher into P3 and Mark Webber an incredible P4.

An emotional Fernando Alonso duly came home to win an epic grand prix, one of the finest crafted races of his career, but as he admitted afterwards one which involved a fair degree of luck for getting away with contact with Grosjean and Vettel's unusual failure. Whatever, a podium place from 11th on the grid would have been a fantastic result. The Ferrari driver stopped his car on track without making it back to parc ferme.

Raikkonen came home in P2 with Schumacher in P3 (the result slightly under a cloud for the use of the DRS through a yellow flag zone). Schumacher himself was ectsatic. Webber was P4, Hulkenberg took his best result in P5 with a resurgent Nico Rosberg P6. Paul DiResta was hanging on with tyres that were down to the canvas in P7, Jenson Button in P8, Perez in P9 and Maldonado still circulating in P10.

It was easily the best Valencia Grand Prix of all time with an emotional Fernando Alonso in tears on the podium. Not only had he won, his closest rivals hadn't even scored points. The stewards would have to work long and hard to clear up the pieces afterwards.

FH

Results:
01. Alonso Ferrari 1h44:16.449
02. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 6.421
03. Schumacher Mercedes + 12.639
04. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 13.628
05. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes + 19.993
06. Rosberg Mercedes + 21.176
07. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 22.886
08. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 24.653
09. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 27.777
10. Maldonado Williams-Renault + 34.630
11. Senna Williams-Renault + 35.900
12. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 37.000
13. Petrov Caterham-Renault + 1:15.871
14. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 1:34.654
15. Pic Marussia-Cosworth + 1:36.565
16. Massa Ferrari + 1 lap
17. De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth + 1 lap
18. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth + 1 lap
19. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 2 laps
Did Not FinishGrosjean Lotus-Renault 41
Vettel Red Bull-Renault 34
Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 34
Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 27
Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1

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