Fernando Alonso started 11th on the grid but charged through to win
The Spaniard is the first driver to win two F1 races this season
Sebastian Vettel is already out of sight of his rivals at the first corner
Lewis Hamilton raced strongly until he experienced severe tyre issues
Pastor Maldonado (right) and Kamui Kobayashi (right) had bruising races
Fernando Alonso became the first double race winner of 2012 when he scored a popular victory in a thrilling European Grand Prix in Valencia today.
The race around the port area of the Spanish city was fairly processional in the early stages, but exploded into life with car failures, clashes, crashes and plenty of overtaking.
For the first half of the race, it looked unlikely that anyone would threaten Sebastian Vettel, who stormed into a commanding 20sec lead after starting from pole position.
The Red Bull Racing star's advantage was eradicated by a safety car period, and shortly after the race resumed his Renault-powered car ground to a halt out on the circuit with a mechanical issue.
That left Alonso – who had qualified a lowly 11th – at the head of the field, chased by a threatening-looking Romain Grosjean, but the Frenchman was also forced to retire when his Lotus suffered a suspected alternator failure.
Alonso still couldn't relax, because Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen were only four seconds in arrears and seemed to be conserving their tyres for a late attack on the Ferrari.
In fact, it was Hamilton who experienced severe rear tyre wear and, as Alonso waltzed away at the front, the Briton was passed by Räikkönen and then came under pressure from fourth-placed Pastor Maldonado.
The Venezuelan's attempts to overtake the gripless McLaren ended in tears when Maldonado – half on the track and half on the rumble strip – T-boned Hamilton and sent him crashing into the wall.
The front wing of Maldonado's car was damaged and he dropped down the order, elevating Michael Schumacher to a surprise podium – his first since 2006. After the race Maldonado was given a 20sec penalty, dropping him out of the points-paying positions.
Alonso broke down in tears of joy on the podium after the race and the win couldn't have come at a better time for Ferrari – Maranello's big boss, Luca di Montezemolo, made a rare appearance at a race on Saturday. The Spaniard now leads the points standings as Formula 1 prepares for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on 8 July.
European Grand Prix, round 8/20, 24 June 2012
1 Fernando Alonso, Ferrari
2 Kimi Räikkönen, Lotus
3 Michael Schumacher, Mercedes
4 Mark Webber, Red Bull
5 Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
6 Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
7 Paul di Resta, Force India
8 Jenson Button, McLaren
9 Sergio Perez, Sauber
10 Bruno Senna, Williams