Formula One: Tearful Fernando Alonso takes the cheers in Valencia
FERNANDO Alonso delivered a highly-emotional speech following a heart-stopping European Grand Prix victory that put him back in control of the topsy-turvy Formula One world title race.
From 11th on the grid, Alonso took the chequered flag for the 19th time in his career, and subsequently a Spanish flag from a marshal he waved with tears in his eyes on his parade lap.
When Alonso pulled his Ferrari over in front of a grandstand due to a late technical issue, he stood on its front and took the acclaim of the thousands of fans. It was the same when he eventually stood on the podium several minutes later as he was mobbed by many en route, including team principal Stefano Domenicali.
It was Alonso’s second win on home soil, his first in 2006 in the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, but it was clear that this one meant far more to him given the economic crisis currently gripping his country.
Explaining the reason behind his tears, Alonso said: “It was more for my own feelings and the people in the grandstands. I know it’s not the best time in Spain at the moment, with the crisis and all the problems that people have. To come to a grand prix you have to make something extra. There are families who have made long trips to come here, they sleep in their car or in a caravan or whatever.
“Today we paid them back a little bit – only a little – for the support they gave us, for all the problems that they are facing, all the worries.
“Winning this race in Spain is probably the best victory I have ever felt in terms of emotions. Nothing maybe compares to this one.”
To add to Alonso’s euphoria, his two closest title rivals – Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel – both failed to finish when both should have scored big points. Vettel, in particular, was cruising to victory in his Red Bull when a safety car turned the race on its head. The reigning world champion was in a world of his own, sailing off to what appeared to be a third consecutive victory at this circuit. But one bump of wheels involving Caterham’s Heikki Kovalainen and the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne on lap 28 changed all that, the latter collecting a ten-place grid penalty for the next race at Silverstone, and a €25,000 fine.
It resulted in a front-left puncture for Kovalainen and a rear-right for Vergne, the latter making a total hash of his return to the pits, leaving debris all over the track, which the marshals were forced to scrape up. Once the safety car departed, Vettel suffered an alternator failure one-and-a-half laps later, his first mechanical retirement for 29 races.
That left Alonso ahead of a chasing Romain Grosjean in his Lotus, only for the Frenchman to also suffer an alternator issue, which in turn promoted Hamilton to second. But, with no grip in his tyres late on, Hamilton was passed by Kimi Raikkonen for the runner-up spot at the end of lap 55 of the 57.
On the penultimate lap, the Williams of Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado went off track while dicing with Hamilton and rejoined by running into him and punting him into a wall.
“It’s really tough when you don’t finish races with only a couple of laps to go,” said Hamilton. “That’s racing. You just have to suck it up and move forward. It’s definitely tough, but there are many races to go.”
Maldonado was handed a retrospective drive-through penalty which cost him his tenth place, a decision unlikely to provide Hamilton with any succour.
Despite a stewards’ investigation into Michael Schumacher using DRS under waved yellow flags, no action was taken, allowing him to retain third place, his first podium since he came out of retirement two and a half years ago.
In the championship, Alonso now has a 20-point lead over Mark Webber in his Red Bull who was fourth after starting 19th, with Hamilton and Vettel 23 and 26 points adrift respectively.
Bathgate’s Paul di Resta was the only driver to employ a one-stop strategy, finishing seventh to move up to 11th in the standings for Force India.
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