It was a war of attrition on Sunday afternoon in Spain. When it was all said and done, Fernando Alonso became the first driver to win two races this Formula 1 season.
An obviously emotional Alonso choked back tears as he talked about winning on home soil. “This is probably the best victory I have ever felt. In terms of emotions, nothing compares to this.”
The 2012 Grand Prix of Europe was marked by more than for giving F1 its first repeat winner of the season after eight races. The event’s final laps retired several drivers through racing incidents and mechanical failure.
Sebastian Vettel looked unbeatable. The two-time reigning world champion started from the pole position and drove flawlessly for 33 of the race’s 57 laps. On Lap 34 and leading the field, Vettel’s car coasted off the track a casualty of mechanical problems.
Vettel’s retirement from the race put Alonso in the lead, but behind him the European grand prix raged on. Romain Grosjean looked like he was set to challenge the leader when his car was stopped by a suspected alternator failure on Lap 40. Grosjean’s misfortune was good luck for Lewis Hamilton, who now was driving in second place.
With his tires degrading, Hamilton could do little to hold off Kimi Räikkönen, but his troubles were far from over. The battle between Hamilton and Pastor Maldonado came to an end on Lap 55 with Hamilton up against the wall.
“Today, we had all the good factors and luck was with us,” Alonso said, perhaps referring to the fact he had started 11th on the grid after a poor qualifying session. “Sport is about that, ups and downs. In sport in general, but especially in Formula 1, anything can happen. There is the car, the strategy, the overtaking, the manoeuvring. We had an amazing race.”
Räikkönen finished in second place in the race and Michael Schumacher was third. It was Schumacher’s first podium finish since coming out of retirement in 2010 after three years away from Formula 1 racing.
“I asked the guys where we finished and the boys told me that’s third,” the seven-time world champion said, adding that finishing on the podium was the last thing on his mind. “I didn’t expect it. I can’t believe that.”
With Hamilton and Vettel not finishing the race, thus not scoring any points in the F1 World Championship, Alonso climbed into the lead of the F1 drivers’ standings. He is 10 points ahead of Mark Webber, while Hamilton drops to third place overall and with 23 points to make up.
The British Grand Prix is next up on the Formula 1 calendar. The race will be run on July 8 in Silverstone, England.