Sunday, June 24, 2012

Alonso Feels at Home with European GP Win

Photo Credit: Sauber Motorsport AG

The first 7 races of the 2012 Formula 1 racing season has produced an unpredictable year to a series that had long been regarded as near scripted. For the 8th event on the Formula 1 calendar, the 5.419-kilometer Valencia Street Circuit holds the European Grand Prix with the potential of becoming a venue for an unprecedented trend or the location for the first two-time winner of the 2012 season.

Set up as 57 laps, Sunday’s European Grand Prix featured a 23-car grid after Marussia F1’s Timo Glock was unwell from a weekend-long illness to compete by race time. On pole, the winner of the previous two races in Valencia, Spain Sebastian Vettel sailed his Red Bull-Renault to an advantage over the McLaren-Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton (a driver fresh off the Canadian Grand Prix victory two weeks ago). Through what was ultimately a clean start for the Formula 1 cars, Vettel pulled away to an easy lead in the Red Bull-Renault looking as if he would be the driver that become the first to repeat in 2012.

While the 2012 European Grand Prix initial laps were rather tame, it would be deeper into the race where several on-track altercations between competitors would transpire. At lap 20 on the Valencia race course, Formula 1 stewards would react to Bruno Senna’s Williams-Renault and the Sauber-Ferrari of Kamui Kobayashi making contact. Executing a drive-through penalty on the Williams F1 car of Senna, Kobayashi would fall victim to another incident of contact with the Ferrari of Felipe Massa retiring on lap 33.

As Sebastian Vettel held onto a 20-second lead just ahead of making his second pit stop of the race for medium compound Pirelli tires, a safety car period brought upon the European Grand Prix on lap 28 when Toro Rosso-Ferrari of Jean-Eric Vergne and Heikki Kovalainen’s Caterham-Renault made contact. Erasing Vettel’s leg-up on the competition, the Red Bull Racing ream’s efforts for winning the European Grand Prix for a third-straight year would ultimately be defeated on the lap 33 restart. Launching to the lead with the intent of recreating his lost advantage, Vettel’s race car began to lose power eventually slowing to a stop. With Sebastian Vettel slowing to what would be a retirement, the Ferrari driven by Spanish drive Fernando Alonso took the lead to the pleasure of a home country crowd. Leading the European Grand Prix from lap 34, Fernando Alonso rose from 11th place to the lead of the race.

Photo Credit: Nissan/Infiniti

Alonso’s Ferrari was steadily out front of the European Grand Prix in the late laps, the fight for the remaining podium positions. Attempting to score a podium, the Sahara Force India team placed driver Paul di Resta on a one-stop strategy after a lap 23 stop for medium compound slick tires. Installed in a podium spot late, di Resta’s older tires allowed the Mercedes-Benz powered car to fall prey to other race contenders who had pitted later.

Also fighting to hold a podium position was the McLaren-Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. Fighting off a push from the Williams-Renault of Pastor Maldonado, Hamilton was defending a 3rd place with two laps to go in the European Grand Prix. As Lewis Hamilton moved to protect his podium spot on lap 56, he forced the charging Maldonado off the preferred racing line and the two cars collided. The McLaren ended the race impacted into the retaining wall with a 19th place finish. Pastor Maldonado limped home in 10th place but was docked 20 seconds for the altercation with Hamilton.

Winning his second Formula 1 race in his home country of Spain (last win coming in 2006), Fernando Alonso’s victory is the first at the Valencia track. A home turf victory for Fernando Alonso, his celebration did not wait for the customary pit lane arrival. Parking his Ferrari F2012 race car on a corner, the Spaniard partied on-track as a salute to his nation who were only too happy to cheer on Alonso.

Trailing Alonso by 6.4 seconds, the 2007 Formula 1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen put the Lotus-Renault into the runner-up spot for the second race in a row this season. Raikkonen ties his best result of the 2012 Formula 1 tour achieved at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Early in the race, Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus F1 teammate Romain Grosjean was in position for a potential podium until his Renault engine lost power in a similar fashion to Sebastian Vettel. In post race, two Renault engine failures were linked to an alternator problem according to the powerplant supplier.

Prevailing in the hard-fought battle for the third place position of the 2012 European Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher scored his first podium for Mercedes GP in three seasons for the team. Only the third time of 2012 where Schumacher scored points after a grand prix, this year has been a particularly hard season for the veteran driver of the Mercedes factory team. The first 8 races of the year for the 7-time world champion contained 5 DNFs occurring while teammate Nico Rosberg scored the Mercedes GP team‘s first win in China. Rosberg claimed 6th place for the Mercedes GP squad becoming the sixth straight Formula 1 race where he has scored grand prix points.

Photo Credit: Mercedes GP

Mark Webber and Nico Hulkenberg wrap up the top 5 finishing positions at the European Grand Prix. Due to Pastor Maldonado’s late race foal, Williams F1 teammate Bruno Senna was promoted to 10th after his early race issues.

The British Grand Prix at Silverstone is next for the 2012 Formula 1 season set for July 8th.

2012 Formula 1
European Grand Prix
Race Results

1 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
2 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault
3 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
4 2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
5 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes
6 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
7 11 Paul di Resta Force India
8 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
9 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari
10 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari
11 16 Daniel Ricciardo Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
12 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault
13 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault
14 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault
15 25 Charlie Pic Marussia-Cosworth
16 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari
17 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth
18 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth
19 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
20 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault
21 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
22 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari
23 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari

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