From eleventh to first: How Alonso won in Valencia
So just how did Fernando Alonso manage to take victory in the European Grand Prix having started the race eleventh on a grid at a circuit infamous for its lack of overtaking?
Last Updated: 26/06/12 11:23am
Through daring, good fortune and stunning moves. Sky Sports F1 charts Fernando's charge from the front...
Lap 1: Despite making Ferrari's customary fast get-away as the lights go out, Fernando remains in eleventh place through the first corner, his way blocked by the two Force Indias and Jenson Button. By the second corner, he has been pushed to the edge of the track, but, despite taking the widest line of any driver in the field through the right-hander, he keeps his foot down to take tenth position ahead of Button and files in behind Nico Rosberg and the Force Indias of Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg around Turn Three.
Lap 1, Turns Four and Five: Alonso's first big break. Perhaps over-eager to recover the positions he has lost off the line, Rosberg launches an over-ambitious move up the inside of Turn Four. Instinctively spotting the opportunity emerging in front of him, Alonso suddenly darts to the widest extremity of the corner and attacks. Rosberg is easy meat; his ambition easily thwarted by Di Resta, he is blocked out and, slowed to a crawl, is gobbled up by the Ferrari. Ninth.
But Fernando immediately has another target within his sights. As a consequence of having to fend off the Mercedes, Di Resta is off line and on the defensive entering Turn Four. Alonso, having taken a wide entry, is already fractionally ahead mid-way through the corner and, quicker onto the power along the short meander towards Turn Five, is able to keep the racing line into the right-hander. The Ferrari's rear-end slides coming out of the corner, forcing Di Resta to lift, and Alonso is clear. Eighth.
Turn Five of Lap 1 to Lap 2: The secret is out. "Another fast start for Alonso," cries David Croft in commentary as the Spaniard, unsated by his early success, positions himself behind the squabbling Kimi Raikkonen and Hulkenberg and awaits his next opportunity.
It isn't long in coming. Hulkenberg is forced onto the back foot after trying to pass the Lotus around the outside of Turn Six and Alonso remorselessly hounds his prey through a succession of corners before out-braking the Force India into the hairpin at the culmination of the second of Valencia's two windy backstraights. The Spaniard is briefly into seventh, but he can't make the move stick: there's a puff of smoke from Alonso's locked-up front right wheel as he fleetingly rounds the Force India and Hulkenberg is able to seizes back his position. Alonso ends the first lap in eighth.
Lap 10: Alonso has been becalmed. There's no inkling of the fireworks - or victory - to come: still tucked up behind Hulkenberg, the Ferrari is almost twenty seconds adrift of race leader Sebastian Vettel as the lap board ticks over into double figures.
Lap 13: Finally, the move is made. Alonso has the far better traction at the start of the backstraight and, after a little feint to suggest he will attack up the inside, sweeps past the Force India. Hulkenberg maintains his line into the hairpin, however, and Alonso is made to work hard for the position. For the briefest of moments, the Spaniard has to correct his steering as the Force India pokes its nose into the inside of the corner and there's scarcely any daylight between the two cars at the apex, but Alonso is too quick and too good. Holding his line, he hugs the inside of the track through turn twelve - the corner where Lewis Hamilton is later to tangle to race-ending effect with Pastor Maldonado - to shove Hulkenberg aside and claim what was his for a fraction of a second twenty minutes previously: seventh.
Lap 14: Alonso has timed his charge past Hulkenberg to perfection because, ahead of him, Maldonado's tyres are suddenly dropping off. Having lost position to Kimi Raikkonen at the moment Alonso was dispatching Hulkenberg, the Williams is a sitting duck to the Ferrari and Alonso claims a second victim in as many laps into Turn Twelve. Sixth position is his - and with Hamilton making the first stop of the frontrunners, Alonso is almost immediately listed as being in fifth.
Lap 15: Make that third as both Kamui Kobayashi and Kimi Raikkonen stop for their change of tyres. Ferrari, having urged their driver to "push", ready themselves in the pits for Alonso's arrival.
Lap 16: An ultimately critical juncture in the race. The Sauber is made to pay for a slack stop - Kobayashi's total pit-stop time is listed as 23.071 seconds, four seconds slower than Alonso's - and is gobbled up. But even more crucially, Alonso returns to the track a mere breath ahead of Raikkonen after being stationary in the pits for just 3.2 seconds. His team have, in effect and actuality, propelled him two places up the field and although Alonso is classified as being in ninth position at the end of lap sixteen Di Resta, the two Mercedes, Mark Webber and Bruno Senna have yet to stop.
Lap 18, Turns One and Two: Having been two seconds away from Webber upon his return to the track the lap before, Alonso suddenly finds himself tucked up behind the RB8 in a long queue of cars, headed by the yet-to-stop Michael Schumacher. The Red Bull is also on used tyres and Alonso charges past Webber into Turn Two. But such a clinical description is ridiculed by stunning on-board footage revealing the awesome pace disparity between the two cars and the breathtaking sight of Alonso almost flicking the RB8's rear-left wheel as he thunders past, holding the outside line into Turn Three. It is heartstopping stuff made to look a formality by Ferrari's brilliant Spaniard. Eighth.
Laps 18 and 19: Senna does not offer a defence as Alonso serenely passes the Williams along the backstraight for seventh. He is immediately upon the floundering Mercedes and hounds Schumacher throughout the rest of the lap before finally overtaking the W03 into Turn Three on lap nineteen. Sixth.
Lap 21: Nico Rosberg finally pits, promoting to Alonso to fifth in the race charts.
Lap 22: Di Resta, running a one-stop strategy, is defenceless to the Spaniard and Alonso climbs to fourth. The gap to Raikkonen, meanwhile, has risen to five seconds - testimony to Alonso's brilliance in the traffic that the Finn is still navigating.
Lap 28: The turning point. Although Alonso's pace in clean air had reduced the deficit to the third-placed Hamilton to around three seconds, Vettel's lead over the Ferrari had been extended to upwards of half-a-minute before Jean-Eric Vergne's appalling lunge into the side of Heikki Kovalainen results in the deployment of the Safety Car.
Suddenly, it is all change.
Alonso follows Hamilton into the pits and is gifted third place by McLaren's customary calamity and the home favourite returns to the track sitting in a podium-scoring position and to a standing ovation from the grandstands.
Lap 31: Another critical piece of the jigsaw falls into Alonso's lap. The amount of debris left on the track means that the Safety Car deployment will be lengthy and, as a result, Race Control decrees that lapped cars may now overtake Vettel to resume their position at the back of the grid. As a consequence, both Grosjean and Alonso are able to cruise up to a position of menace behind the Red Bull.
But Alonso has an additional advantage: Daniel Ricciardo, in the second Toro Rosso, has made just the solitary stop and thus sits in fourth position, buffering Alonso from both Raikkonen and Hamilton. Unlike his rivals, Alonso thus only needs to concern himself with the car in front. It is a benefit which proves to be critical.
Lap 33, Final Corner: The Safety Car finally pits and Alonso's experience comes to the fore as the expertly positions himself right behind the Lotus into the final corner of the lap...
Lap 34: Having made a better exit on to the start-finish 'straight', Alonso makes his move. With Grosjean taking up a defensive position in the middle of the track, Alonso darts his F2012 into the now-familiar territory on the outside of Turn Two. Again, a small but critical detail comes to his assistance: Vettel's entry into Turn Two is ultra-defensive, and with the rest of the track blocked off by the Ferrari, Grosjean has to lift for a fraction of a second at the apex of the corner. It's enough - just.
From the onboard camera, the Lotus' front wing appears between the right wheels of Alonso's Ferrari and the two cars touch. The contact is slight, enough to spook Alonso into believing he has a problem but not enough to persuade him to back out. He holds his line around the outside of Two and plunges for the inside of Turn Three. Where is Grosjean? He's behind the Ferrari. Alonso has second place. "One for the brave and Alonso the bravest of them," proclaims Croft.
Turn Twelve, Lap 34: Although its bearing on Alonso's race is not immediately obvious - and is in any case, swiftly overshadowed by what occurs approximately ten seconds later further up the road - another critical moment: Hamilton overtakes Raikkonen after a mistake from the Finn. But eyes to the front...
Turn Fourteen, Lap 34: Without warning, Vettel's Red Bull loses power and crawls to a halt. Alonso charges past into first place and the lead of the race. On the pitwall, Adrian Newey puts his head into his hands. In the grandstands, ecstasy.
Lap 35: Alonso leads by one second from Grosjean. Behind the leading pair, Hamilton and Raikkonen overtake Ricciardo but, tellingly, the McLaren continues to fall away from the front duo and both he and Raikkonen are put under investigation for overtaking under yellow flags.
Lap 36: The team assure Alonso that his car has emerged unscathed from the contact with Grosjean. His lap-time confirms as much.
Lap 38: Alonso sets the fastest lap of the race - a 1:43.754 - to extend his lead over Hamilton and Raikkonen to two seconds and eek out precious breathing space ahead of Grosjean.
Lap 41: Game over for Grosjean. His Renault engine suffers the same ailment that forced Vettel into retirement and the Frenchman parks his Lotus. Alonso's lead thus becomes a four-second affair with Hamilton listed as his nearest challenger. The seemingly-impossible has suddenly become the probable.
Laps 41 to 47: Alonso maintains a lead of between 3.7 and 3.9 seconds over Hamilton.
Lap 48: With his lap-times dropping off markedly, Hamilton is caught by Raikkonen - but, critically, not passed.
Lap 49: Alonso reports over his team radio that "my tyres are finished, we need to do something." Ferrari urge calm and instruct their driver to stay on track - a decision immediately vindicated by Hamilton, rapidly losing grip on his rear tyres, ceding further ground to the Spaniard. Alonso's lead is thus extended to 4.2 seconds.
Lap 50: The full significance of Hamilton's earlier move on Raikkonen becomes apparent. "Hamilton is doing Fernando Alonso a favour by holding up the Lotus," notes Ted Kravitz from the pitlane. The Ferrari is clear.
Lap 52: Ferrari issue further reassurance to Alonso over their pits-to-car radio. Raikkonen still can't find a way past Hamilton.
Lap 55: Hamilton's tyres wobble on the edge of the cliff. Raikkonen finally takes second place from the McLaren but, in the process of gaining a place, his victory hopes are effectively terminated as Alonso's lead extends to 7.3 seconds
Lap 56: Ferrari warn Alonso of yellow flags at Turn Twelve. The Spaniard slows and spies a McLaren in the wall. Unbeknown to him, it is Hamilton's. Frantic juggling of the figures finds that Alonso is on course to take a twenty-point lead in the World Championship.
Lap 57: Raikkonen's tyres are shot after spending so many laps in Hamilton's dirty air. Alonso's lead rises to over eight seconds. The Ferrari slows to a cruise. The victory is almost is his.
The Chequered Flag: Alonso claims his second win of 2012 and his second on Spanish home soil, crossing the line after one hour and forty-four minutes of racing with a 6.4 seconds margin of victory over Raikkonen.