Fernando Alonso won the European Formula One Grand Prix in front of a Spanish home crowd on Sunday from 11th place on the grid and became the first repeat winner of the season amid plenty of late-race drama.
The Ferrari driver Alonso got his 29th career victory from Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher got his first podium since his 2010 return by coming third for Mercedes.
Sebastian Vettel had to retire with a technical problem in the 34th lap, Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Lotus suffered the same fate running in second place four laps later, and the drama was complete when Pastor Maldonado and Lewis Hamilton collided in a fight for third place in the penultimate lap.
Vettel had dominated the race from pole some 20 seconds ahead of Grosjean at the time. The advantage ended when the safety car came out in the 29th lap after a collision between Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso and the Caterham of Heikki Kovalainen.
Alonso squeezed past Grosjean seconds after the restart in the 34th and was at the top before the end of the lap when Vettel’s Red Bull suddenly slowed down and the German threw his gloves away in frustration.
“We don’t know yet what happened,” Vettel said in first television interviews, suggesting the safety car may have been brought out for tactical reasons. “We controlled the race, but then came the safety car, which wasn’t really necessary. The safety broke our neck.”
Alonso safely drove home while Hamilton was overtaken by Raikkonen in the third last 55th lap and in the next lap was forced to retire after the collision with the Williams of Maldonado, which gifted Schumacher his first podium since 2006.
Alonso crossed the line in 1 hour 44 minutes 16.649 seconds and saluted the 100,000-strong crowd with a Spanish flag after his strong race from 11th place. Webber started as far down as 19th but fought to fourth.
Only 23 cars competed on Sunday as German Marrusia driver Timo Glock was ruled out with a stomach bug.
The next race is the British Grand Prix on July 8 at Silverstone.