With Sebastian Vettel on pole and Lewis Hamilton alongside it looks like normal service is being resumed at the 2012 European Grand Prix. But is it?
Tyres have dictated results as much as cars and drivers in the 2012 Grand Prix Circus, leading to seven different winners in the first seven Grand Prix of 2012.
But if a Red Bull and McLaren front row in Valencia might make you feel things are settling down in to the old familiar pattern, you’d be wrong.
Vettel got away cleanly ahead of Lewis Hamilton with Romain Grosjean slipping in to third place ahead of Pastor Maldonado. Vettel pulled out a lead and, on lap ten, Grodjean pulled a great move on Hamilton to take third place.
At this stage things were looking predictable, but after the safety car came out whilst debris was cleared after a knock between Jean-Eric Vergne and Heikki Kovalainen on lap 28, Alonso managed to get past Grosjen for second place on the restart, shortly followed by the demise of Vettel’s Red Bull and the lead for Alonso.
After a rotten (yet another) McLaren pit stop Hamilton managed to get in front of Grosjean for second place when an alternator failure on the Lotus put Grosjean out, but Hamilton ended up in losing second place to Raikkonen as his tyres faded, and a coming together as Maldonado tried to take advantage of Hamilton’s lack of grip ended up with Hamilton in the barriers and out of the race.
The closing lap was a mêlée with Schumacher coming through to take third place behind Raikkonen, Webber grabbed fourth for Red Bull followed by Hulkenberg, Rosberg and Paul di Resta. A lacklustre Button brought his McLaren home for eighth place, which would have been far worse without the attrition in front.
But Alonso was a worthy winner in Valencia, having come from eleventh on the grid, Raikkonen finished where he started and Schumacher – with his first podium since his comeback – took third place from 12th on the grid and became the oldest podium driver since Jack Brabham in 1970.
Probably the best Grand Prix we’ve seen since the European Grand Prix moved to Valencia.