Alonso victorious in thrilling Valencia race

Fernando Alonso made it a wonderful sporting weekend for Spain with victory in an exciting European Grand Prix at Valencia.

The double world champion came through from eleventh on the grid to take a remarkable home victory and he now leads the world championship.

Alonso benefited from Sebastian Vettel’s non-finish to record his second win of the season. The German had this race under control during the first half but a mechanical problem on the Red Bull forced him out.

Lewis Hamilton was also out of the European Grand Prix after a collision with Pastor Maldonado’s Williams as they fought for third.

Romain Grosjean had looked like a victory threat as the Lotus driver chased Alonso, only to suffer an alternator failure, but his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen came through to claim second after a late pass on the fading Hamilton, whose incident with Maldonado then allowed Michael Schumacher to make his podium return for Mercedes in third position, chased by 19th-place qualifier Mark Webber’s Red Bull.

Vettel commanded the early stages, immediately pulling out a lead of several seconds as the pack behind took several corners to sort itself out. Front row qualifier Hamilton got away slowly, and had to fend off before establishing himself in second ahead of Grosjean, Kamui Kobayashi, Maldonado, Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg and the fast-starting Alonso.

During the opening stint Alonso overtook Hulkenberg and followed Raikkonen past Maldonado, then jumped Raikkonen and Kobayashi by running one lap longer before his first pitstop.

This group then came out in a long train of yet-to-stop cars, through which Alonso made much more assertive progress than his rivals.

Approaching half-distance, Vettel was leading by twenty seconds over Grosjean, who had overtaken Hamilton with a neat outside-line move on lap ten and then pulled out a ten seconds gap over the McLaren, which had Alonso edging closer.

When the Safety Car was called out to clear debris from a clash between Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso and Heikki Kovalainen’s Caterham, most drivers made their second and final pitstops.

Hamilton’s pitstop was a disaster. That allowed Alonso to gain a position to third, and the Spaniard then went around the outside of Grosjean into the first corner at the restart to claim second.

Moments later that second position became the race lead, as Vettel’s Red Bull suddenly cut out (possibly an alternator failure) and retired, to the world champion’s shock.

Grosjean kept Alonso under pressure and still seemed a likely winner, only for an alternator failure to halt the Lotus with 17 laps to the flag.

After that Alonso was able to pull clear and become the first repeat winner this season, retaking the world championship lead in the process.

Hamilton held on to second until the final two laps, when his tyres fading away. Raikkonen got past after a long battle, but when Maldonado tried to do the same, the pair clashed, putting the McLaren in the barriers and breaking the front wing off his Williams.

That allowed Schumacher through to claim the first podium of his Formula One return, as fended off Webber, who made great progress through from P19 on the grid.

Maldonado was able to finish the race despite the clash and the Venezuelan was followed home by his Williams team-mate Bruno Senna, who got a drive-through penalty for a collision with Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi, who’d enjoyed a long spell in fourth place prior to the first round of pit stops. That became P11 after Maldonado’s penalty.

Both Schumacher and Webber passed the Force Indias in the closing stages, with Nico Rosberg then getting his Mercedes between Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta’s Force Indias to take sixth on the final lap.

Jenson Button had a low-key run to eighth for McLaren, ahead of Sergio Perez’s Sauber and the limping Maldonado.

The second Ferrari of Felipe Massa was delayed with damage from a collision with Kobayashi and finished a lowly P16. Kobayashi had to retire after the incident.

For some of the race it looked like Caterham might score its first point, as solid pace and the attrition ahead allowed Vitaly Petrov to pick his way up to tenth place. But the Russian was pushed back down the order and then tangled with Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo.

After the race, Vergne received a 10-place grid drop and a €25,000 fine for his collision with Kovalainen.

Alonso now has 111 points, from Webber on 91. Then come Hamilton on 88 and Vettel on 85, as Rosberg moves to fifth on 75 and Raikkonen to sixth on 73.

In the constructors chase, Red Bull have 176 to McLaren’s 137, Lotus’s 126, Ferrari’s 122 and Mercedes’ 92.

European Grand Prix race result, 57 laps:

1.  Alonso        Ferrari                    1h44:16.449
2.  Raikkonen     Lotus-Renault              +6.421
3.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +12.639
4.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +13.628
5.  Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes       +19.993
6.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +21.176
7.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +22.886
8.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +24.653
9.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +27.777
10.  Senna         Williams-Renault           +35.900
11.  Ricciardo     Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +37.000
12.  Maldonado     Williams-Renault           +54.630*
13.  Petrov        Caterham-Renault           +1:15.871
14.  Kovalainen    Caterham-Renault           +1:34.654
15.  Pic           Marussia-Cosworth          +1:36.565
16.  Massa         Ferrari                    +1 lap
17.  De la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth               +1 lap
18.  Karthikeyan   HRT-Cosworth               +1 lap
19.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +2 laps

*Post-race penalty for crashing into Hamilton. Added 20 seconds.

Fastest lap: Rosberg, 1:42.163

Not classified/retirements:

Grosjean      Lotus-Renault                41 laps
Vettel        Red Bull-Renault             34 laps
Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari               34 laps
Vergne        Toro Rosso-Ferrari           27 laps
Glock         Marussia-Cosworth            1 lap

World Championship standings, round 8:

1.  Alonso       111
2.  Webber        91
3.  Hamilton      88
4.  Vettel        85
5.  Rosberg       75
6.  Raikkonen     73
7.  Grosjean      53
8.  Button        49
9.  Perez         39
10.  Maldonado     29
11.  Di Resta      27
12.  Kobayashi     21
13.  Hulkenberg    17
14.  Schumacher    17
15.  Senna         16
16.  Massa         11
17.  Vergne         4
18.  Ricciardo      2

1.  Red Bull-Renault          176
2.  McLaren-Mercedes          137
3.  Lotus-Renault             126
4.  Ferrari                   122
5.  Mercedes                   92
6.  Sauber-Ferrari             60
7.  Williams-Renault           45
8.  Force India-Mercedes       44
9.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari          6

Next race: British Grand Prix, Silverstone. July 6-8.

Vettel claims 33rd pole position at Valencia

Sebastian Vettel seized the opportunity at Valencia by beating both Lewis Hamilton and Pastor Maldonado to pole position in an exciting qualifying session.

The new revisions to the Red Bull RB8 featuring upgrades to the front wing, floor, sidepods, front suspension and diffuser certainly made the car quicker with Vettel achieving his third consecutive pole at the circuit.

Williams driver Maldonado looked set to start in P1 for the second time this season – having inherited the Barcelona pole after Hamilton was penalised – as he surged to the top with a one minute, 38.475 seconds lap in the closing moments of Q3.

But Vettel was flying in the revised Red Bull, coming through to depose Maldonado by nearly four tenths of a second with a one minute, 38.086 seconds.

By taking pole position, the double world champion has now equalled Jim Clark and Alain Prost’s record of 33 career poles in the sport. A remarkable achievement.

As for Lewis Hamilton, the championship leader was able to slipped ahead of Maldonado by 0.065 seconds with his final Q3 lap.

Yet again, Lotus was unable to challenge for pole despite looking good in final practice. Romain Grosjean will start in fourth position ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, with the time difference between the team-mates was only 0.008 seconds.

The astonishingly close times in qualifying claimed several early victims – including both Ferraris, Michael Schumacher and Mark Webber – none of which made it into the top ten.

That was in part because a host of underdogs proceeded to Q3, with both Force Indias and Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi reaching the top ten shootout.

In fact, Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta made an appearance inside the top four during Q3 before being edged back down to eighth and tenth respectively.

Jenson Button showed signs of improved form but will start the European Grand Prix in ninth for McLaren.

As for Nico Rosberg, who set the initial pace for Mercedes, the Chinese Grand Prix winner will line up on the grid in sixth ahead of Kamui Kobayashi.

Less than three tenths of a second covered the top 13 cars in Q2, and several top teams were squeezed out.

Most significantly for the title battle and most disappointing for the Spanish crowd was that Alonso missed out on Q3 by 0.004 seconds, as lapping just 0.218 seconds off pacesetter Grosjean left him P11.

Michael Schumacher squeezed in between the Scuderias in P12, with all three less than 0.08 seconds from the Q3 cut-off.

The other early shock was that Mark Webber could only managed P19, hampered by hydraulic issues and a lack of DRS on his Red Bull.

The qualifying session gave Heikki Kovalainen and Caterham another chance to star, and the Finn outpaced both Toro Rossos to take P16 on the grid, behind Bruno Senna’s Williams and the Sauber of Sergio Perez, both of whom were some way off their team-mates’ pace in Q2.

It was a tough session for Marussia. While Timo Glock was sidelined by illness, his team-mate Charles Pic was unable to beat either HRT.

Qualifying positions for the European Grand Prix, Valencia:

1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m38.086s
2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m38.410s
3.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault     1m38.475s
4.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault        1m38.505s
5.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault        1m38.513s
6.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m38.623s
7.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m38.741s
8.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes 1m38.752s
9.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m38.801s
10.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m38.992s
11.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m38.707s
12.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m38.770s
13.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m38.780s
14.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault     1m39.207s
15.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m39.358s
16.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault     1m40.295s
17.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m40.358s
18.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m40.203s
19.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m40.395s
20.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault     1m40.457s
21.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth         1m42.171s
22.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth         1m42.527s
23.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth    1m42.675s

107 per cent time: 1m45.742s

Hamilton becomes seventh winner in Formula One

Five years on after winning his maiden Formula One victory, Lewis Hamilton becomes the sport’s seventh winner with a storming charge in the Canadian Grand Prix.

The McLaren driver finally took his first win of the season with a fight back to the front, passing both Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso in the late stages of a thrilling race.

Hamilton’s victory at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve means he has won this event three times and he now leads the world championship after seven races.

Lotus’s Romain Grosjean and Sauber’s Sergio Perez took the second podium finishes of their careers as they demoted the fading Alonso, who eventually dropped to fifth.

Pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel only finished in fourth, but had led Hamilton and Alonso in the opening stint.

The Red Bull driver was the first of the trio to stop for tyres, and found himself jumped by both his rivals as they came in shortly afterwards.

Alonso came off best as he vaulted both the Red Bull and the McLaren, but Hamilton was able to re-pass the Ferrari down the back straight thanks to DRS.

The McLaren then edged slightly away before coming in for a second tyre stop on lap 49.

Alonso and Vettel opted a risky strategy in trying to race until the end on their existing rubber, but Hamilton had the speed to hunt down and pass both of them, going to win and claim the points lead in the process.

Vettel then gave up his one-stop attempt and made a very late tyre stop, while Alonso clung on and hoped to still make it to the end in second position, only for his pace to drop off dramatically.

Grosjean – who had pitted only two laps later than the Ferrari – was soon past Alonso into second position, with Perez (who made his sole pit stop until lap 41) and the recovering Vettel also easily dismissing the Spaniard.

Two-stoppers Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber were sixth and seventh for Mercedes and Red Bull respectively, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus and the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi.

Felipe Massa spun from fifth to P12 in his Ferrari, and had to settle for tenth after stopping twice for tyres.

Force India’s Paul di Resta had a spell as high as sixth in the early running, only to lose ground with a relatively early first of two pit stops, leaving him P11.

It was another disastrous race for both Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher. The McLaren driver had to make three tyre stops and finished a lapped P16, while the rear wing flap on Schumacher’s Mercedes jammed open, ending his race.

Canadian Grand Prix, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. 70 laps:
1.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           1h32:29.586
2.  Grosjean      Lotus-Renault              +2.513
3.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +5.260
4.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +7.295
5.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +13.411
6.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +13.842
7.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +15.085
8.  Raikkonen     Lotus-Renault              +15.567
9.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +24.432
10.  Massa         Ferrari                    +25.272
11.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +37.693
12.  Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes       +46.236
13.  Maldonado     Williams-Renault           +47.052
14.  Ricciardo     Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1:04.475
15.  Vergne        Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
16.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +1 lap
17.  Senna         Williams-Renault           +1 lap
18.  Kovalainen    Caterham-Renault           +1 lap
19.  Petrov        Caterham-Renault           +1 lap
20.  Pic           Marussia-Cosworth          +2 laps

Fastest lap: Vettel, 1:15.752

Not classified/retirements:
Glock         Marussia-Cosworth            57 laps
Schumacher    Mercedes                     34 laps
De la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth                 25 laps
Karthikeyan   HRT-Cosworth                 23 laps

World Championship standings, round 7:                

1.  Hamilton      88
2.  Alonso        86
3.  Vettel        85
4.  Webber        79
5.  Rosberg       67
6.  Raikkonen     55
7.  Grosjean      53
8.  Button        45
9.  Perez         37
10.  Maldonado     29
11.  Kobayashi     21
12.  Di Resta      21
13.  Senna         15
14.  Massa         11
15.  Hulkenberg     7
16.  Vergne         4
17.  Schumacher     2
18.  Ricciardo      2

1.  Red Bull-Renault          164
2.  McLaren-Mercedes          133
3.  Lotus-Renault             108
4.  Ferrari                    97
5.  Mercedes                   69
6.  Sauber-Ferrari             58
7.  Williams-Renault           44
8.  Force India-Mercedes       28
9.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari          6

Next race: European Grand Prix, Valencia. June 22-24.

Dominant Vettel takes Canada pole

Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel achieved his 32nd pole position in Formula One with an exceptional performance in qualifying at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

The Red Bull driver led every qualifying session in Montreal. To claim his second successive pole is a fantastic achievement.

Vettel’s performance came despite Red Bull being told to change their front hubs and brake ducts after the FIA feared that they were conferring an aerodynamic benefit and the recent modification to the rear floor of the RB8.

His margin to Lewis Hamilton was three-tenths of a second. A quite comfortable gap to his nearest challenger.

In fact, the Red Bull driver’s cushion was surprisingly sufficient given that just eight-tenths had covered 17 cars in Q1 while the whole Q2 field had been within a second.

This really showcases how incredibly close the level of competition in Formula One this season.

Vettel started Q3 on provisional pole with a lap time of one minute, 13.905 seconds. No one was able to beat this and yet the young German was able to improve with a time of one minute, 13.784 seconds on his second run.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton will join Vettel on the front row, having grabbed second from Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari with his second Q3 attempt.

Alonso looked like a pole contender until a disappointing final sector on his best lap left the Scuderia driver to settle for third.

Mark Webber completes the top four, followed by Nico Rosberg in the leader Mercedes – four positions ahead of team-mate Michael Schumacher – and Felipe Massa’s Ferrari in sixth.

Romain Grosjean reached Q3 for Lotus and claimed seventh but his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was eliminated and will start in P12.

Force India’s Paul di Resta made his second Q3 appearance of the season and earned eighth for his efforts.

As for Jenson Button, he avoided a third consecutive Q2 elimination, but only just.

The McLaren driver sat in tenth at the end of the second segment and looked in real danger of being edged out by Pastor Maldonado, only for the Spanish Grand Prix winner to spin his Williams into the wall at the final chicane, leaving him P17.

Button will start on row five, having spoiled one set of super softs by locking up.

After crashing into the Wall of Champions in practice, Bruno Senna will start one position ahead of his Williams team-mate Maldonado in P16.

Also out in Q2 were both Saubers – with Kamui Kobayashi just 0.008 seconds shy of a Q3 spot in P11 and Sergio Perez back in P15 – the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg and the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo.

Following his crash in the build-up to qualifying, Jean-Eric Vergne’s underwhelming Saturday continued as a mistake on his best lap saw the Frenchman exiting Q1 for the fourth time in his first seven events.

Not only was he knocked out, but Vergne was outqualified by both Caterhams and will start down in a disappointing P20.

In another Q1 surprise, Pedro de la Rosa put his HRT in P21 on the grid, beating both Marussias.

Qualifying positions, Canadian Grand Prix:

1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m13.784s
2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m14.087s
3.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m14.151s
4.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m14.346s
5.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m14.411s
6.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m14.465s
7.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault        1m14.645s
8.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m14.705s
9.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m14.812s
10.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m15.182s
11.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m14.688s
12.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault        1m14.734s
13.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes 1m14.748s
14.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m15.078s
15.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m15.156s
16.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault     1m15.170s
17.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault     1m15.231s
18.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault     1m16.263s
19.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault     1m16.482s
20.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m16.602s
21.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth         1m17.492s
22.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth    1m17.901s
23.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth    1m18.255s
24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth         1m18.330s

107 per cent time: 1m19.887s