Fernando Alonso third victory on home soil

Fernando Alonso: First past the post in Barcelona. Picture: AP
Fernando Alonso: First past the post in Barcelona. Picture: AP
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FERNANDO Alonso yesterday provided Spain with a lift in a time of crisis courtesy of his third victory on home soil.

The hordes of Spanish fans around Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, and the millions more watching on television, will not care it was a horribly messy affair, complicated by a staggering 79 pit stops.

Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery at least held his hands up and admitted that at an average of four stops per driver was not in their plans and nor should it be going forward, with changes likely.

But then that will not suit Ferrari nor Alonso if that happens after Felipe Massa was also on the podium, with the duo split by Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen, runner-up for the third consecutive race but just four points behind Sebastian Vettel in the title race.

To underline how the tyre complexities blew the race apart, Alonso set a new record for the circuit hosting its 23rd Spanish Grand Prix. In the previous 22, no driver had previously won from below third on the grid, with 21 of those from the front row and 17 from pole.

Alonso took the chequered flag having started from fifth, scoring his first Spanish GP win since 2006 to add to his European GP triumph last year in Valencia.

The elation amongst the fans was obvious come the conclusion, and for Alonso there was also a clear sense of instilling some national pride.

“To win here there is fantastic emotion,” said Alonso. “You can feel the support from everybody, with every single member of the team taking care of every detail because we wanted to do well here, in front of our fans, with so many people supporting Ferrari.

“So we did it, and we’re happy for that, and naturally we don’t want to stop here, obviously.”

After scoring the 32nd victory of his career, there was a moment of consternation for Alonso when he was summoned to see the stewards for ‘receiving an object at the end of the race’.

Alonso had picked up a Spanish flag from a marshal which he raised on his victory lap - banned in F1 - but mercifully the stewards decided not to take any action as common sense prevailed.

Alonso has closed the gap to Vettel to 17 points as the three-times world champion was fourth in his Red Bull, 30 seconds behind the 31-year-old, conceding he had no answer to him and Ferrari.

As for Mercedes, who on Saturday locked out the front row, the caution expressed by Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton following qualifying was fully justified.

Rosberg managed his tyres better but could still only finish sixth, whilst Hamilton disappeared out of the points altogether as he dropped to a harrowing 12th.

A dejected Hamilton said: “It was a difficult afternoon, and going backwards is never fun. We switched to a four-stop strategy during the race but I suffered with a lack of grip and balance throughout, and we were never really able to get the tyres working.

“I know everyone at the team is working so hard and we need to keep positive. I’m sure we will figure the problem out.

“We’ve got to keep pushing together to close the gap, and I will be doing my best to help and encourage the guys.”

With Jenson Button eighth in his McLaren, followed closely by team-mate Sergio Perez, it meant for the second successive race Scotland’s Paul Di Resta was the best of the Brits as he was seventh in his Force India, with Marussia’s Max Chilton 19th and last of those who finished.