Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso won a thrilling European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain, on Sunday, the Spanish driver becoming the first repeat winner of a wide-open season.
Less than 24 hours after Spain had secured their place in the semi-finals at Euro 2012, the two-time drivers’ champion gave his home fans in Valencia more reason to celebrate.
Alonso, who drove a superb race from 11th on the grid, said: “I can’t express in words my feeling at the moment, to win my home Grand Prix is a unique feeling, and with the football I’m feeling proud to be Spanish right now.”
Alonso, who picked up a Spanish flag to wave on his victorious slowing down lap, came home first ahead of Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus and Michael Schumacher, 43, of Mercedes.
In a dramatic finale, Lewis Hamilton of McLaren crashed out after a final lap collision with Pastor Maldonado of Williams, an incident that hoisted Schumacher into the top three to make him the oldest podium finisher since Australian Jack Brabham, in 1970, when he was 44.
Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull was forced to retire after dominating most of the race from pole position, as was his nearest challenger, Romain Grosjean of Lotus.
Mark Webber, who started 19th, came home fourth for Red Bull ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Nico Rosberg, who was sixth for Mercedes.
Alonso now leads the drivers’ standings on 111 points, from Webber on 91, Hamilton on 88 and Vettel four points further adrift in fourth.
Vettel made a flawless start from his 33rd pole position and he was soon streaking away into the distance and by lap five was already more than seven seconds clear of Hamilton.
Grosjean then passed Hamilton with a smart and smoothly executed move that left the Briton with no choice but to yield second place.
The first round of pit stops reshuffled the field only slightly, with Vettel out in front, ahead of the chasing Grosjean, Hamilton and Alonso.
The safety car made an entrance on lap 28 when Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso attempted to pass Heikki Kovalainen’s Caterham, but instead hit him.
This, in turn, meant that the field was slowed and bunched up again as the leaders dived into the pits, where Hamilton, once again, suffered another slow and bungled McLaren stop.
The race restarted at the end of lap 33 with Alonso making a superb move to pass Grosjean.
Within another lap Vettel was forced to retire from the race — gifting Alonso the lead.
On lap 41, Grosjean followed Vettel out of the race with an alternator problem.
This lifted Hamilton back to second with Raikkonen third, before Hamilton crashed out.