Fernando Alonso delighted the Montmeló crowd by taking the checkered flag at the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday for the first time since 2006 — the year the then Renault driver won his second world championship.
It was the Ferrari team leader’s 32nd career victory, moving him above Nigel Mansell into fourth place on the all-time winners’ list. Now only the great Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna have won more races than the 31-year-old. Alonso finished nine seconds ahead of Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus, who held off third-place Felipe Massa in the other Ferrari.
The Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were fourth and fifth, respectively, while Nico Rosberg finished sixth having started from pole position as the Mercedes once again suffered tire-wear problems. His teammate Lewis Hamilton, who had set off from second on the grid, was 12th.
Alonso made fast progress in an exciting opening to the first lap, moving up from sixth to third as he got past Raikkonen and the already slipping Hamilton on turn three. The Englishman had locked up at the entrance to the first right-hander, giving the Spaniard the chance to go for a spectacular overtaking maneuver round the outside.
We had the pace to do four stops, even though we knew some of our rivals were doing three"
Then, with a struggling Hamilton in fourth holding up the pack, Alonso pushed up close on second-place Vettel in the Red Bull. The home favorite drew one of the biggest cheers from the Montmeló crowd as he managed to sneak in front of the German world champion following the first round of pit stops after 10 laps. Then, on lap 13 Alonso overtook Rosberg to take the lead.
It was a key strike for the Asturian, who now set about building up a big enough margin to execute his four-stop strategy.
Raikkonen — who was running a three-stop strategy — temporarily took the lead after the Spaniard’s third tire change. But he took him just two laps to recover the ground and first position, leaving the Finn to worry about fending off Massa.
“Thanks to everyone for forking out to come to the circuit,” Alonso told fans gathered below the winners’ podium. “We had the pace to do four stops, even though we knew some of our rivals were doing three. Everything turned out well and hopefully I can give you a lot more joy throughout the rest of the season.”
The home win made Alonso the first driver since 1996 to win at the Circuit de Catalunya after starting from outside the front row of the grid.
It also provided a welcome boost to his championship hopes, moving him up to third in the overall drivers’ standings on 72 points. Vettel continues to head up the leaderboard on 89 points with Raikkonen in second on 85.