A penny for Luca di Montezemolo’s thoughts. One must be wondering what his reaction was when Ferrari’s star driver, Fernando Alonso, romped to an emphatic win – and a 20-point championship lead – around the streets of Valencia, less than 24 hours after the Ferrari Chairman stormed out of the port city after the Spaniard qualified a lowly eleventh on the grid.
It’s not often that Di Montezemolo and his 1970s-inspired suits make an appearance in the F1 paddock. Granted, he was here to thrash out some of the finer details ahead of the long-awaited re-signing of the Concorde Agreement, but one daren’t disappoint the big boss when he’s around.
Having claimed that they were having too heavy an impact in the fortunes of his team, no doubt he’ll be singing Pirelli’s praises – and that of the Ferrari chassis – today.
Even Alonso had himself ruled out the prospects of a decent result on Sunday, and went so far to suggest that a podium finish was out of the question on a circuit where overtaking is routinely difficult. Little was he to know what was to follow…
But less than a day later in baking conditions, he was again the darling of his team and the patriotic home fans who flocked to witness him in action, where he became the season’s first two-time winner and the new runaway championship leader.
By Valencia’s usually dull standards, few would have expected a race of such excitement and action. There were crashes aplenty and a good dose of overtaking, while a rare mechanical failure conspired to rob pole-sitter and runaway race leader Sebastian Vettel of a certain win.
Vettel had rocketed away at the start and quickly set about building himself a seemingly insurmountable lead in the early stages, while the chasing pack was bottled up behind Lewis Hamilton in second.
Hamilton would ultimately be passed by Romain Grosjean – many had tipped the Lotus driver as the dark horse of the race – but Vettel had enough in hand to emerge in the lead after his first pit stop.
But it would all come undone after a Safety Car interruption, brought about by debris littering the track when Jean-Eric Vergne and Heikki Kovalainen got together. With the field condensed and it taking an eternity to shuffle the lapped cars around to the back of the pack, Vettel’s alternator overheated and he pulled off the circuit before the first green flag lap was done.
That should have left Grosjean as the man most likely to become a record-breaking eighth different winner in the first eight races of the year, but the Frenchman found himself jumped at the restart by an opportunistic Alonso, who had steadily climbed his way up the order with some neat overtaking moves and two quick-fire pit stops.
But the Frenchman would fall to a similar alternator failure and retire from the action, leaving Alonso to assume an unexpected lead, much to the raptures of the flag-waving fans in the grandstands.
The Spaniard could now push for victory, but he would still be threatened by the rapidly closing pair of Kimi Raikkonen, Pastor Maldonado and Michael Schumacher, who were both climbing through the field in the final stages as their rivals’ tyres started to go off.
Hamilton was a sitting duck in the final laps. Running in second place on well-worn tyres, he found himself passed by Raikkonen along the back straight with just two laps left to run.
Maldonado was right behind, and sensing the chance to claim another podium finish on Spanish soil, he made his move around the outside of the McLaren.
Predictably, the pair would collide. Maldonado tipped Hamilton into the tyre barriers and instant retirement, while the Venezuelan tried to complete the final lap-and-a-half minus his front wing, rapidly tumbling down the field to finish tenth, which became twelfth after a post-race penalty was not surprisingly issued against him.
Their clash promoted Schumacher – who had steadily climbed up the order after starting from twelfth place on the slower medium-compound tyres – to an astounding third place, the German staving off a similar late-race charge from Mark Webber, who had climbed all the up for 19th on the grid.
The pair got by both Force Indias late in the race, with Nico Hulkenberg going on to finish a career-best fifth, while Nico Rosberg got his works Mercedes ahead of Paul di Resta in the closing laps to claim sixth place.
Jenson Button recovered from a dreadful start to finish eighth, while Sergio Perez finished ninth and Bruno Senna was promoted to tenth.
2012 European Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (57 laps):
|1.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||57||1:44:16.649|
|2.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E20||57||+ 6.421|
|3.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||57||+ 12.639|
|4.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||57||+ 13.628|
|5.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes VJM05||57||+ 19.993|
|6.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||57||+ 21.176|
|7.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM05||57||+ 22.866|
|8.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||57||+ 24.653|
|9.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C31||57||+ 27.777|
|10.||Bruno Senna||Williams Renault FW34||57||+ 35.961|
|11.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||57||+ 37.041|
|12.||Pastor Maldonado*||Williams Renault FW34||57||+ 54.630|
|13.||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham Renault CT01||57||+ 1:15.871|
|14.||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham Renault CT01||57||+ 1:34.654|
|15.||Charles Pic||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||57||+ 1:36.551|
|16.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||56||1 lap behind|
|17.||Pedro de la Rosa||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||56||1 lap behind|
|18.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||56||1 lap behind|
|19.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||55||Collision|
|DNF.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E20||40||Alternator|
|DNF.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||33||Alternator|
|DNF.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C31||33||Collision|
|DNF.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||26||Puncture|
|DNS.||Timo Glock||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||Unwell|
|Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||54||1:42.163|
* Denotes 25-second time penalty imposed post-race for causing an avoidable collision.
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