Alonso hails best F1 win yet
FIRST DOUBLE WINNER OF THE SEASON: Ferrari's Fernando Alonso has broken the 2012 cycle of different race winners by becoming the first driver to win two races this season.
Author: GORDON HOWARD
VALENCIA, Spain - Local hero Fernando Alonso sparked more Spanish celebrations when he became the first driver to win two Formula 1 races in 2012 by driving his Ferrari to victory in the European Grand Prix.
His win came less than 24 hours after the Spanish soccer team secured a place in the semi-finals at Euro 2012 to gave the crowd in Valencia every reason to enjoy another party.
Alonso, who picked up a Spanish flag to wave on his victory lap, finished ahead of Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen and third-placed Mercedes' Michael Schumacher.
Mark Webber, who started 19th, was fourth for Red Bull ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Nico Rosberg who was sixth for Mercedes.
Alonso said: "I cannot put into words the special feeling of winning your home GP." His namesake Xabi Alonso scored both goals to see Spain past France at the Euro quarter-finals.
Alonso, who drove a superb race from 11th on the grid, added: "It is unique and special. The stands were full of colour and Spanish flags and, after the footballers won at Euro 2012, I am feeling very proud to be Spanish. This is possibly the best victory I have had."
Alonso's win lifted him to the top of the Drivers' championship standings with 111 points ahead of Webber on 91 and Hamilton, third on 88 having come into the race as the leader.
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali was ecstatic. 'It was an unbelievable race and, for me, it is important that we kept the pace. Our main competitors lost some important points and I am very happy for Fernando - an incredible performance."
'DIDN'T HAVE SPEED'
Raikkonen added: "You're always frustrated when you don't win. I made a good start but I was blocked by (Pastor) Maldonado so I was a bit behind, but made a good recovery after some hard fighting and overtaking.
"We didn't have speed today to challenge for the win. In the end second place is OK but not what we wanted."
The race was punctuated by incident, with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton crashing out after a final lap collision with Williams' Pastor Maldonado.
A frustrated Hamilton threw his steering wheel from his car and stormed back to the pits on foot and with his helmet on despite the sweltering heat.
Despite being clearly upset, the Briton held his tongue and said: "A tough day in the office but you have to deal with it. We're looking forward to going to Silverstone but we were a long way off today."
'COULDN'T AVOID THE ACCIDENT'
Maldonado, who was involved in collisions with Hamilton in 2011, said: "He tried to put me off of the track and he didn't give me any room. I jumped over the kerb and couldn't avoid the accident. I don't know why he was driving like that. He tried a very aggressive movement on me."
The incident hoisted Schumacher into the top three making him the oldest podium finisher since Jack Brabham, in 1970, when he was 44.
It was the F1 veteran's first podium since he returned to the sport with Mercedes in 2010.
Schumacher said: "I didn't think about a podium at all. I asked my guys at the end of the race where I finished and when they told me third, I couldn't believe it. You lose count of where you are, it was busy at the end of the race."
Defending double World champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull was forced to retire after dominating most of the race after starting from pole position as also was his nearest challenger Romain Grosjean of Lotus.
Vettel, who retired on lap 35, said: "We don't know what happened yet. I lost drive and then the engine stalled the switched off. We don't know what the problem is."