Valencia has a history of producing boring processional races but that was not to be this year as an exhilarating grand prix saw Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso script a stunning victory from eleventh on the grid. He drove a stupendous race, passed those ahead of him like a champion and had lady luck smile upon him a tad, to become the first driver this season to win two races. Race leader Sebastian Vettel suffered an engine failure which ended his race just as Alonso had passed into second place after a race restart following a safety car period.
Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen finished in second place having bided his time in the closing laps before passing Lewis Hamilton into second place. Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher finished a surprised third, after he pitted for a fresh set of tyres and scythed through the field towards the latter part of the race.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber finished fourth having duplicated Schumacher’s tyre change and following him as they hunted down other drivers in pairs. Fifth place went to the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg ahead of Nico Rosberg in sixth and Paul Di Resta in seventh. Jenson Button finished eighth ahead of the Sauber of Sergio Perez in ninth and the Williams of Pastor Maldonado in tenth.
Apart from Alonso’s magnificent victory, the three other highlights of the race were the retirement of pole sitter and early leader Sebastian Vettel, ditto for Renault’s Romain Grosjean and a dodo move by Pastor Maldonado on Lewis Hamilton which wrecked the McLaren’s suspension as he banged into the wall whilst in third place.
The incidents were precipitated by a rookie mistake from Toro Rosso’s Jean Eric Vergne, who banged into the Caterham of Heikki Kovalainen as he was passing him – puncturing the rear-right tyre of the Toro Rosso and the front-left of the Caterham. Vergne drove back to the pits shredding bits and pieces of debris all along the track, which brought out the safety car.
Vettel was cruising a good 20 second ahead of Romain Grosjean when the field bunched together and many of the front runners electing to change their tyres as the safety car waited to pick up Vettel. Alonso had made his way up to third by that time and had Grosjean between him and leader Vettel. He wouldn’t have been in that place if it weren’t for the McLaren crew’s errors in Hamilton’s pit stop – which saw the front jack slip, causing a delay in changing the left-front tyre, allowing Alonso to pass through.
At the race restart, Alonso pulled off a brave overtaking manoeuvre on Grosjean and sped into second place and almost instantly Vettel’s engine cut off, slowing him down to a crawl and allowing Alonso to speed into the lead of the race, which he would hold onto until the Chequered Flag.
Grosjean was keeping apace with the Ferrari after this and one was left wondering of the Lotus’ better tyre handling could play a part towards the latter laps, allowing Grosjean to challenge for the win. But alas, luck again took Alonso’s side as Grosjean’s Renault engine suffered the same problem as Vettel’s and cut off – meaning race over for the Frenchman.
By the final laps, Alonso was a clear 4 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton with Kimi Raikkonen just under a second behind the McLaren and as its tyres fell away, Raikkonen was able to pass into second place. Hamilton could still have taken third if it weren’t for Maldonado’s barge into him as he came back from off the track, sending the McLaren into the wall and wrecking its suspension. This allowed the fast-charging Schumacher & Webber to take up third and fourth places, having made a third stop for fresh set of tyres.
Phew! Think we’ve summed up the main happenings in the race which was nowhere as dull as previous ones and is already being talked up as the best race of the season. Alonso now heads the drivers’ championship with 111 points with Mark Webber in second, twenty points behind. Hamilton drops to third with Vettel three points further back.