66 – 2012 European Grand Prix


A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here).

He was a fraction over two-tenths slower than Q2’s fastest lap – but 11th on the grid was 11th on the grid. Although it meant he had a set of fresh slicks for the race, disappointment for once peeked from behind his usual punchy optimism. 

Fernando Alonso had come up short at home.

Sunday dawned hot. His getaway wasn’t great but his car’s body language was positive. Every first-lap opportunity had to be grabbed. He ran wide over Turn One’s kerb but kept his foot in to pass Jenson Button. Tenth. Nico Rosberg and Paul di Resta, clumsily mixing it and distracted, were outfumbled entering and exiting Turns Four and Five. Ninth. And eighth.

View the 2012 European Grand Prix on the Database

Alonso’s second push was launched just before the first round of stops. Sixth by lap 14, he stayed out longer than most, pushed like hell, and gobbled up another couple.

Now came the crux. Emerging behind a gaggle going long, he launched his third push immediately: Mark Webber, Bruno Senna, Michael Schumacher – eighth, seventh and sixth in the space of two laps.

Rosberg pitted. Fifth. One-stopping di Resta was a sitting duck on old rubber. Fourth. Only then did Alonso get his first break. Two in fact: a Safety Car because of debris – and a cocked-up stop for Lewis Hamilton. Third. Romain Grosjean was lightly tagged and solidly mugged at the restart. Second.

Leader Sebastian Vettel was right to be disappointed: he would have run away with it had not his Red Bull’s alternator packed up. But Alonso only won because he thought he could and drove like he might right from the start. He had walked tall at home. PF

About 100 Greatest Grands Prix | From the editor Damien Smith
The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…

Welcome to this special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month.

It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache…

Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided.

Then there were those races of prominence, attached to a certain time or place that made them hugely significant. I’m thinking specifically of Belgrade, 1939. Only five entries took the start of a race that didn’t sound particularly scintillating. But as it happened to take place on the very day WWII broke out, we felt it worthy of inclusion. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel’s remarkable maiden GP win at Monza in 2008, for lowly Scuderia Toro Rosso, was left on the cutting room floor. Is that fair? You decide. We also opted to include a few races that weren’t Grands Prix, leastways in name, although the strength of entry was such that they might as well have been…

Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for!

Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport.

So turn the page, delve in – and whatever you do, don’t take it too seriously.

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