Fernando Alonso became the first driver to win two grand prix in this extraordinary Formula 1 season after benefitting from retirements for Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean today in Valencia.
Kimi Raikkonen finished the eventful race in second place, and Michael Schumacher took third to claim his first podium finish since 2006.
Mark Webber was close behind Schumacher in fourth whilst Nico Hulkenberg managed to secure a good fifth place for Force India. Team-mate Paul di Resta was seventh, behind the second Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.
Jenson Button had another frustrating race, and could only finish eighth, but did better than Lewis Hamilton, who was unceremoniously dumped out of the race by Pastor Maldonado, on the penultimate lap of the race, whilst running third.
Sergio Perez took ninth place, and Maldonado was classified tenth, but may find that point taken from him by the stewards.
After four tedious races in Valencia, this one was a welcome break from the norm. However, as Sebastian Vettel pulled away into the lead off the race, and had a 1.9 second lead over Lewis Hamilton by the end of the first lap, the victory looked inevitable for the German.
Romain Grosjean got up past Pastor Maldonado to take third off the line, but the real winner at the start was Fernando Alonso, jumping from eleventh to eighth on the opening lap. Nico Rosberg was the biggest loser off the line – he dropped from sixth to eleventh – and Jenson Button also dropped backwards from his starting position of ninth.
Grosjean found his way past Hamilton on Lap 10. It was an impressive move from the Frenchman, but by the end of that lap he was already a massive 11.4 seconds behind leader Vettel, and still the German looked nailed on for victory.
Hamilton was the first of the leading cars to pit, coming in at the end of Lap 13 from third place. The leading duo of Vettel and Grosjean pitted at the end of Lap 16. Vettel left the pit lane just as Grosjean was entering his pit box; such was the on-track distance between them.
Grosjean came out of the pits comfortably head of Lewis Hamilton, but was behind Paul di Resta and Nico Rosberg, who were yet to make their first stops. Meanwhile, Vettel was beginning to put in purple sectors again, further enhancing his lead.
Grosjean dispatched Rosberg and Di Resta within a few laps to get back up into second place, but he was now 18.7 seconds behind Vettel.
Michael Schumacher and Mark Webber, who started the race on the harder tyres, made their first stop at the end of Lap 19. Schumacher had a huge queue of cars behind him whilst running in seventh place, and Webber, a couple of places back, was struggling on those older tyres.
Bruno Senna, who was also yet to stop, was sent spinning when an over-eager Kamui Kobayashi attempting to dive past the Williams driver. The Brazilian somehow missed the wall, but did pick up a right-rear puncture. Kobayashi earned a broken front wing for his troubles, but Senna was, somewhat bizarrely, given a drive-through penalty.
Paul di Resta, who had done a sterling job to get a set of soft tyres through to Lap 23, was the last runner to make a pit stop. He pitted from fifth place, and re-emerged behind Michael Schumacher in fourteenth.
Then Jean-Eric Vergne banged wheels with Heikki Kovalainen to give both him and the Caterham driver a puncture. The two hobbled back to the pits, but all the time Vergne’s Pirelli tyre was throwing rubber all over the track.
This debris brought out the safety car, and Grosjean, Alonso, Raikonnen, and Hamilton all dived into the pits. Hamilton had another shocking pit stop – this time it was a problem on the left-front tyre and a dodgy front jack.
Vettel also managed to make his pit stop before he was picked up by the safety car. He kept the lead of the race, Grosjean kept second, and Alonso jumped up to third, displacing Hamilton. Daniel Ricciardo, who was yet to make a second stop, was running fourth, whilst Raikkonen was fifth and Hamilton was now down to sixth.
The safety car came in at the end of Lap 33, with the field all bunched up behind Vettel. Fernando Alonso was the biggest winner of the restart, overtaking Grosjean with some brave driving. Hamilton also found his way past Kimi Raikkonen to get back up into fifth.
And then there was more drama, when Vettel started coasting, and then came to a halt at Turn 17. Alonso, who started the race from eleventh – was now up into the lead.
The race winner was far from certain at this stage though. With over twenty laps to go, Grosjean was still very close to the back of Alonso, and looking threatening.
Further down the field, Kamui Kobayashi and Felipe Massa had a coming together on track. It looked as though Kobayashi ran into the side of the Ferrari, leaving him with a broken front wing, and Massa with a puncture. The stewards laid the blame firmly at Kobayashi’s door, giving the Japanese driver a five-place grid penalty for the next race.
At the end of Lap 40, Alonso had a lead of 1.4 seconds over Grosjean. Hamilton was third, Raikkonen fourth and Schumacher – who was about to make his second stop – was fifth.
But on the next lap, Grosjean came to a stop as well, his Lotus just giving up. For the remaining laps, Hamilton and Raikkonen would be the only drivers with the potential to challenge Alonso for victory, but they could not close the gap to the Spaniard.
In fact, Raikkonen and Hamilton spent more time fighting amongst themselves in the closing laps, and with Hamilton’s tyres giving up a couple of laps from the end, Raikkonen moved up into second place. On the penultimate lap, Pastor Maldonado made a move on Hamilton for third place. He came from off the race track into the side of Hamilton, pushing the McLaren into the wall. Hamilton was out of the race, and Maldonado lost his front wing.
Meanwhile, Schumacher and Webber, who made those late second stops, were the big movers through the field in the closing stages of the race. As Schumacher passed one car, Webber would follow a few corners later. They were the first past the Hamilton/Maldonado instant, which meant that Schumacher took his first podium since returning to the sport.
A number of penalties were handed out after the race:
- Pastor Maldonado recieved a 20-second penalty for causing the collision with Lewis Hamilton. He dropped from tenth place to twelfth, and Williams team-mate Bruno Senna was promoted to the final points-paying position.
- Jean-Eric Vergne was given a ten-place grid penalty for the British Grand Prix after stewards took a dim view of the part he played in the collision with Heikki Kovalainen. The Frenchman was also fined â‚¬25,000.
- Kamui Kobayashi recieved a five-place grid penalty for the British Grand Prix for causing a collision with Felipe Massa.
- Michael Schumacher was investigated by stewards after the race for having using his DRS system under yellow flags. However, the stewards decided that he had slowed enough and did not apply a penalty.