Alonso becomes first two-time race winner of 2012 with Pirelli
By using a two-stop strategy, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso became the first driver to win two races in the 2012 season, taking the championship lead thanks to an emotional victory on home territory. Alonso qualified 11th on the grid but made up 10 places with two short stints on the P Zero Yellow soft tyre and a longer stint of 29 laps on the P Zero White medium.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel was leading by 20 seconds after qualifying on pole, until a safety car period halfway through the race. The German came in for a set of mediums that he hoped would take him to the end of the race after two stints on the soft tires, and re-joined the race in the lead. But shortly after the re-start, Vettel retired with a technical problem and local hero Alonso went in front, having also stopped during the safety car period to bolt on his final set of medium tires.
Lotus driver Romain Grosjean was following a similar tyre strategy to Alonso and was in a strong position to challenge the Ferrari until he succumbed to a technical problem as well, on lap 40. The final podium positions were only decided in the closing laps, after a dramatic finish characterized by incidents and overtaking.
Kimi Raikkonen was second for Lotus ahead of Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher. Raikkonen also took advantage of the safety car period to change his final set of tires, while Schumacher was on a different strategy. Third place for Schumacher – the highest placed on the grid (12th) of only five drivers to start the race on the medium tyre – was also his best result of the year and the first podium of his comeback, after a spectacular charge in the final laps on the soft tyre. Once again, three different cars and engine manufacturers were represented on the podium, driven by three world champions.
Force India’s Paul di Resta was the only driver to use a one-stop strategy, stopping to change from soft to medium tyres on lap 23 and in the process becoming the driver who completed the longest run on each tyre: 23 laps on the soft and 34 laps on the medium. Di Resta finished seventh, just two places behind his two-stopping team mate Nico Hulkenberg, whose fifth place was also the best result of his career.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “Valencia is meant to be a circuit that is incredibly difficult to overtake on, but that didn’t seem to be the case today as there were so many times when you didn’t know where to look next! Valencia is an incredibly tough track, as could be seen from the number of retirements this afternoon, and Fernando did an incredible job to win from 11th place. The final run to the flag was particularly interesting with the top three cars on similar strategies until Lewis Hamilton was involved in a crash and Michael Schumacher came through. So it was a fascinating opportunity for us to see how the cars and drivers managed the tires on a level playing field, particularly when it came to the final laps. Congratulations also to Schumacher and Mercedes: it’s fantastic to see a great champion like him back on the podium – in the company of two other great champions, who did an equally impressive job.”