Fernando Alonso’s improbable win from 11th place on the grid in Valencia on Sunday was the latest twist in this extraordinary Formula 1 season and gave the Ferrari driver a 20 point lead in the Championship, with Red Bull’s Mark Webber second, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton a further three points back in third and the same gap to World Champion Sebastian Vettel back in fourth.
Vettel looked to have the European Grand Prix in safe keeping for much of Sunday’s race and had looked the quickest car on the circuit in qualification and during the race ahead of the mechanical failure that led to his retirement; the German will take heart if no points from the weekend.
Hamilton was struggling with his car for most of the weekend in Valencia, despite qualifying alongside Vettel on the front row, and would have been delighted with a podium finish had he not had a coming together with the Williams of Pastor Maldonado as he tried desperately to hang on to third place despite tyre degradation.
Maldonado was given a 20 second penalty for the incident, but there were many who felt the British driver was as much to blame as he tried to make it as difficult as possible for the Williams to overtake. When the dust has settled who knows how important the 12 points for finishing 4th Hamilton is likely to have picked up in Valencia will be in the final standings.
Alonso was followed home in Spain by the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen and the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher his first podium finish since his return to the sport, and one which obviously gave him and the team an enormous amount of satisfaction. Raikkonen was pleased if not delighted with his second place finish and you get the impression that the Lotus will be big players in the second half of the year.
There is so little to choose between the cars this year that consistency may well win the Title and with this in mind Alonso is 15/8 favourite to regain the Title he won previously in 2005 & 06 when driving for Renault.
Vettel is 5/2 for his hat-trick of World Titles with Hamilton out to 3/1 after his DNF in Valencia with Webber and Raikkonen on 14/1. The Flying Finn, who won his sole Drivers’ Championship in 2007, is 38 points behind Alonso and has yet to win in 2012 but the suggestion is it is only a matter of time before Lotus add their name to the list of winners in this most competitive of years.
And so to Silverstone and the British Grand Prix which is being staged on the same day as the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final for the first time that I can remember. Alonso won the corresponding race 12 months ago from the two Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber and the Spaniard is 9/2 to win back-to-back with Vettel the 11/4 favourite at betvictor.com with Hamilton 7/2.
Silverstone is a track that really out to suit Red Bull again with Vettel successful in 2009 and Webber in 2010 and the 12/1 for the latter makes plenty of appeal given the Aussie has finished on the podium in the last three GP at Silverstone.
What next in this rollercoaster of a year for Lewis Hamilton in his home GP? Despite qualifying on the front row he was never particularly happy in Spain and will, ultimately, want to forget Valencia in a hurry. He won his home GP back in 2008 the year he won his World Title and he will be hoping for similar scenario at Silverstone.
It promises to be another sensational GP; will Alonso win back-to-back and put clear water between him and the chasing pack? Will it be the race that Lotus finally delivers? Will normal service be resumed for Red Bull? Or can McLaren put behind a below par performance both on and off the track in Valencia?
We will have everything covered again at BetVictor.com from P1 right through to the chequered flag on Sunday.