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Mon Apr 21 16:58:22 SAST 2014

Alonso is their name, winning is their game

Sapa-AFP | 25 June, 2012 06:490 Comments
Fernando Alonso of Spain in a Ferrari on his way to winning the European Grand Prix on the Valencia street circuit yesterday after starting from 11th position on the grid
Image by: PAUL GILHAM / GALLO IMAGES

LOCAL hero Fernando Alonso sparked more Spanish celebrations in Valencia yesterday when he became the first man to win two Formula One races this year by driving his Ferrari to victory in the European Grand Prix.

Less than 24 hours after his national soccer team had secured their place in the semifinals at Euro 2012, the two-time drivers' champion gave a sun-basking crowd in Valencia every reason to enjoy another party.

Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus was second and seven-time champion Michael Schumacher of Mercedes third.

"I cannot put into words the special feeling of winning your home grand prix," said Alonso, whose namesake Xabi Alonso scored both goals to see Spain past France at the Euro quarterfinals.

The Spaniard, who drove a superb race from 11th on the grid, added: "It is unique and special.

"I am very proud to be Spanish at the moment. This is possibly the best victory I have ever had."

Alonso's win lifted him to the top of the drivers' championship standings with 111 points ahead of Webber on 91, with Hamilton now third on 88, having come into the race as the leader.

Pastor Maldonado was handed a 20-second penalty by race stewards for colliding with Lewis Hamilton. Maldonado of Williams and the McLaren driver were battling for third place before the two collided towards the end of the race, sending the Englishman into the barrier - forcing him to retire - while Maldonado finished sixth.

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.

The incident hoisted 43-year-old Schumacher into the top three, making him the oldest podium finisher since Australian Jack Brabham, in 1970, when he was 44. It was the German 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.

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