Two-time champion Fernando Alonso thrilled a massive 95,000 flag-waving home crowd yesterday when he drove his Ferrari to a dominant victory at the Spanish Grand Prix.
It was the Spaniard’s second win of the season and the 32nd of his career — a triumph that endorsed his challenge for a third drivers’ title on an afternoon of Spanish supremacy at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Driving with great aplomb, Alonso delivered a beautifully judged performance to win a tactical contest dominated by tire-wear management, finishing 9.338 seconds ahead of second-placed Finn Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus.
“What a fantastic feeling, you feel the support from everybody, we wanted to do well here in front of our fans, so many people supporting Ferrari,” Alonso said.
Alonso’s Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa of Brazil started from ninth, but finished third ahead of defending triple world champion Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber.
Alonso’s win bucked a trend at the Catalan circuit where 18 of the previous 22 races were won by the driver who started from pole position. This time, pole-sitting German Nico Rosberg of Mercedes finished sixth ahead of Paul di Resta of Force India.
Jenson Button finished a measured eighth for McLaren ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez, with Australian Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso completing the top 10.
Lewis Hamilton, who started from second alongside Rosberg, struggled home 12th on a disappointing day.
Alonso picked up a Spanish flag from a steward on his slowing down lap and ignited national celebrations as he completed his tour of the crowded circuit.
In the drivers’ championship, Alonso jumped to third with 72 points, behind leader Vettel on 89 and Raikkonen on 85.
On a warm afternoon in the Catalan hinterland, Rosberg pulled clear of the field.
After falling from pole to finish ninth at last month’s Bahrain Grand Prix, Rosberg was keen to take advantage of his prime starting slot.
Hamilton, starting second in an all-Mercedes front row, was unable to match his teammate’s pace or resist charges from both Vettel and Alonso on the opening lap, which also saw Webber fall to 12th and Button to 17th.
The first round of stops saw Alonso pit early, on lap 10, and take advantage of a chance to charge that enabled him to take second from Vettel, after the champion’s stop, and then the lead by passing Rosberg after lap 13.
By then, Frenchman Romain Grosjean had retired following a rear suspension failure on his Lotus.
Alonso pitted from the lead after 22 laps, gifting Vettel control for two laps, before he came in and Raikkonen took over at the front.
Raikkonen then pitted after 26 laps, switching back to medium compounds, and Alonso took the lead again ahead of his Ferrari teammate Massa, with Vettel third, nursing his front-left tire carefully under instructions from the Red Bull team.
Alonso, looking strong, extended his lead to seven seconds with 24 laps remaining, before Raikkonen pitted again, leaving Massa to run second — until he also pitted again — as Ferrari dictated matters from the front.
Another slick Ferrari stop after 50 laps left Alonso to charge to the flag.