Monday, June 25, 2012

Giornata fantastica!

Fernando Alonso secured his second victory in 2012 bringing to an end the unprecedented seven round streak of different race winners. After an incredibly competitive qualifying session which saw the top 12 cars separated by .3 seconds in Q2, Alonso found himself 11th on the starting grid on a circuit that in recent years has seen few overtakes. A combination of masterful overtakes and multiple strokes of good fortune including a safety car period and a mechanical failure for the race leader, Sebastian Vettel, placed Alonso in the lead with a little over half of the Grand Prix completed.
Romain Grosjean, who many had hoped would be the 8th different winner of the season, instead continued his streak of bad luck by retiring his car a few laps after Vettel with an identical alternator failure in his Renault engine. Despite Romain's relatively poor results in the points so far this season, he is making a name for himself as one of the most talented drivers on the grid with excellent qualifying results and moments of brilliance including his performance on Sunday before his untimely retirement.

Lewis Hamilton, who has been at the center of many controversies and dramas in the past two seasons had another weekend of heartbreak and high emotions. After qualifying second on the grid, he remained in contention for a podium until a botched pit stop (the only consistent factor in every race so far this year) during the safety car period dropped him to 6th. This painful stop with a double front jack failure possibly cost him the race as he found himself under pressure from Pastor Maldonado and Kimi Raikkonen in the closing laps of the race. Fighting for 3rd at this stage, Hamilton held off Maldonado for a few corners with brave defensive moves on heavily degraded Pirellis until the almost inevitable collision between the two bitter rivals saw Hamilton out of the race and Maldonado limping to a 10th place finish sans front wing (later converted to 12th following a 20 second penalty for the incident with hamilton).

Benefiting from the retirements of the three likely podium finishers, Michael Schumacher drove his Mercedes Benz to a third place finish and his first podium since coming out of retirement two years ago.
Kimi Raikkonen secured second place resulting in an somewhat bizarre Ferrari World Champ Alumni Podium.

Fernando Alonso has been somewhat overshadowed by the dominance of Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel in the past two seasons, but performances like this suggest that he is worth the $40 million contract he has with Ferrari. In addition to being "the Maestro", Alonso has a sense of history and significance of moment. His hoisting of Maldonado on the podium in Barcelona and his riding of the Red Bull of Mark Webber last year are examples of his appreciation for and participation in these moments. He must certainly feel a sense of destiny in this extremely unlikely victory.
"And now here in Valencia, with this special team, Ferrari, with all the grandstand full of red colour and Spanish flags. Here now, with the Euro football championship also, there is a lot of Spanish atmosphere inside all of us. Feeling very proud to be a Spanish sportsman at the moment and winning in Spain this race is probably the best victory I ever felt in terms of emotions. Nothing maybe compares to this one."

There is very little cheering at motor races. In my experience you just sort of stand there in awe and under assault from the volume. That is unless you are in Spain. When Alonso took the lead following Vettel’s retirement you could hear the roar of the crowd on the broadcast at every turn as the director followed alonso around the circuit. I don't think there is a venue outside of spain where this happens. The sound of the crowd was reminiscent of Valentino Rossi’s battle with Jorge Lorenzo at Catalunya in 2009.

Talking about stopping his car on track after the race: "It was the right place maybe because we had two grandstands there. It took a little bit of time for the medical car to arrive and we had eight or 10 minutes of all the people saying things about me, saying congratulations. They want me to jump. You know, fun and games and we enjoy a little bit those minutes."

We all enjoy a little bit those minutes.

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