Fernando Alonso has hailed his unexpected victory in the European Grand Prix as perhaps the best the best feeling of a lengthy F1 career that already includes two world titles and a win in the Spanish GP.
driver had only hoped for a decent points finish in order to bolster his championship challenge after qualifying eleventh on the Valencia street circuit, but a strong run into the points and misfortune for the two pacesetters elevated him into the lead, before Lewis Hamilton's penultimate lap demise further strengthened his grip on the title race.
Alonso was up into eighth place by the end of the opening lap, courtesy in the main to capitalising on being in the right place at the right time through turns four and five. Breaking free from the train that formed behind Michael Schumacher between the two pit-stop windows also played a major part in helping Alonso get to the front, and a smart second stop - taken as soon as the safety car appeared on lap 28 - ensured that he would be a contender for victory. Passing Romain Grosjean
at the restart put him into second place, and prime position to inherit the lead when Sebastian Vettel's car stopped. Once in front, the Spaniard was never headed.
"Fridays and Saturdays in F1 are okay but, until the chequered flag, anything can happen," he pointed out, "Until today at two o'clock, we had had quite a bad weekend and now we have had a very good weekend. We need to remember, always, that, until the last lap in the race, we need to be positive and to trust in ourselves.
"I think there are four or five moments in that race which changed our result. The start and the first lap were very aggressive, [we] nearly touched in the first corner and, in turn four I think, I overtook two cars braking on the outside. That, for sure, maybe changed [the race] because we were fighting [Jenson Button] in turn one, and then Button was like P14 or something like that. If you finish in his position, maybe the race is more difficult, so we were lucky at that moment.
"We were also lucky in some of the overtaking, I think, with [Pastor] Maldonado and with [Mark] Webber - and Michael [Schumacher] as well, at the moment we went out of the pits. For sure, Grosjean overtaking me was very risky at the restart. We touched in the first two corners and, after we touched, I felt that the car was not very good. When you have a little contact with someone, for whatever reason, you feel that the car is wrong for the next two corners, because you are so worried that something happened and that maybe you convince yourself that something has happened. But then, one lap later, the times were okay and the car was good.
"Those were the key moments of the race, plus the last stint, as the tyres were finished and we had to control the tyre wear plus the pressure from Grosjean, the pressure from Hamilton, and with Kimi at the end. There was not a single lap to relax.
"When you find yourself third in the race after the safety car, I said 'hopefully there is the chequered flag now and I can enjoy this podium celebration'. Two laps later, I overtake Grosjean on the restart and you think again 'hopefully the race finishes now'. Then Vettel stopped and it was a very long race until the end...."
Clearly emotional after taking the chequered flag, Alonso then got the opportunity to celebrate with the locals after his car ground to a halt on the slow down lap.