Fernando Alonso celebrated one of his sweetest Formula One victories in front of a Spanish home crowd but even the fact that he is the first 2012 repeat winner confirms that the season remains unpredictable.

Alonso won the European Grand Prix from 11th place on the grid for Ferrari in a race which appeared decided at the halfway mark.

But a runaway 20-second lead of world champion Sebastian Vettel ended when the safety car came out in the 29th lap.

Vettel was out with an alternator problem before the first post-safety-car-lap was over, Romain Grosjean lasted only four laps longer in second place before retiring with the same problem, and the shake-up was complete in the penultimate lap when Pastor Maldonado shoved his Williams into the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton.

Once the dust had settled and Alonso had saluted the Spanish fans he climbed the podium ahead of two former Ferrari world champions in the form of Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher.

For the 43-year-old Schumacher, it was the first podium in a decade and since his comeback to racing from a four-year absence in 2010 at Mercedes.

Schumacher readily admitted to confusion about his placing when he crossed the line and also forgot to speak a few words in German in the post-race news conference.

He may be excused because the outcome only proved that nothing is predictable in a season which had seen seven different winners in the first seven races before Alonso finally added the Valencia success to that from Malaysia.

“That’s Formula One. That’s the best thing we can say. It’s unpredictable. Good results. Still a sport. Sport is about that,” Alonso said.

“Many things can happen in sports and maybe more in Formula One.

There are many factors inside, there are the cars, brakes, engines -- anything can have a failure in the race. There are a lot of things we need to take care: the strategies, the start, the overtaking, and manoeuvres. When you put all of these in one thing you have a Formula One grand prix.

“Today, we had an amazing race, amazing start, some good fights, I think I remember six or seven overtakings where it was very close, and we touched each other.

“I touched Grosjean in the restart. All of those little moments can go on the wrong side and you finish the race in the wall, or you can be the winner at the end. And today, we had all the good factors with us and the luck and we have to enjoy this.” Jenson Button phrased it slightly differently but the winner of the season-opening Australia race had the same in mind as Alonso after an eighth-place finish for McLaren.

“Twelve years of experience doesn’t help you this year. I tried moves here and there and nothing worked out,” Button said.

Button named luck an important ingredient for success as well after the Formula One gods smiled generously on Alonso and Schumacher, the latter rebounding a style from many setbacks.

“Getting to third position is just awesome. The team and myself have been criticised here and there, particularly lately, and this is the best way to answer criticism, to go back and deliver as we did today, and therefore I’m proud, thankful and very excited,” Schumacher said.” Alonso also had the difficult economic situation in Spain and the success of the nation’s football team at Euro 2012 in mid when he said: “I think from the emotional side this is the best one (victory). The emotions that I felt on the in lap, or during the podium ceremony or right now, I think doesn’t compare to anything before.” Hamilton, meanwhile, managed to control his emotions while he must have been fuming about the manoeuvre of Maldonado as he lost the championship lead and precious ground on Alonso.

Vettel, meanwhile, suggested that the safety car had only come out to spice up what was a lonely race up front for him, something that happens every now and them in US racing but not in F1.

“We controlled the race, but then came the safety car which wasn’t really necessary. The safety car broke our neck,” Vettel said.

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