Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F2012 ahead of Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8
Alonso was under consistent pressure, first from Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and later from McLaren’s Jenson Button, both of whom got within less than a second of the Ferrari at times. But the Spaniard never put a wheel wrong nor lost his nerve and pulled away in the closing stages as Button faded and was repassed by Vettel.
It looked for a long while like a race McLaren could - should - have won, but Button never managed to get close enough to use DRS to find his way by going into the hairpin and as his tyres eventually went off he had to give best to Vettel.
However, the manner in which the world champion passed him going into the hairpin on the 66th lap was subsequently investigated by the race stewards as he went outside the track limits. Vettel argued that he was just giving Button room and that he couldn’t be sure where he was. Button disagreed.
The stewards eventually decided in the Briton’s favour and handed Vettel a 20-second time penalty, which moved the German down into fifth in the race results and promoted Button into second, Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen into third and Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi into fourth.
All of the leaders made two pit stops, including Raikkonen who didn’t make a late charge this time but enjoyed a strong race, and the duelling Saubers of Kobayashi and Sergio Perez. They started on different tyre strategies, however, with the Japanese driver holding his position as the Mexican came under pressure from three-stopping Michael Schumacher who finished just a second behind for Mercedes.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber was an unusually subdued eighth, with the three-stopping Force India of Nico Hulkenberg salvaging only ninth after a mighty fight with the Saubers early on. Paul di Resta in the other Force India was again on a different strategy, and by the end his tyres were too worn after only two stops to fend off Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg who climbed from 21st on the grid to take the final point from the Scot.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa collided with Daniel Ricciardo at the start and thus compromised his race and had to fight back to 12th place, fittingly passing the Toro Rosso of Ricciardo right at the end. Behind the Australian, team mate Jean-Eric Vergne was 14th ahead of Pastor Maldonado, who looked a threat for Williams early on before dropping back.
Vitaly Petrov drove a feisty race for Caterham to beat team mate Heikki Kovalainen quite comfortably. The latter finished 19th as Williams’ Bruno Senna and Lotus’s Romain Grosjean, both delayed by first lap incidents, took 17th and 18th. Charles Pic was never challenged by Marussia team mate Timo Glock, and they were separated by the feisty Pedro de la Rosa in his HRT, with Narain Karthikeyan bringing up the rear in the second Spanish car.
And Lewis Hamilton? His 100th race was a disaster as he cut his left-rear tyre on some of the Massa/Ricciardo debris on the third lap and dropped to the back of the field. A very long - 28-lap - stint on medium Pirellis helped him to climb back and later he played a key role in Button’s race as he caught and passed his team mate and Vettel to unlap himself and was chasing Alonso when the latter stopped for the last time. Vettel was not amused and spoke with harsh criticism afterwards. Hamilton’s pace was to no avail as he eventually became the only retirement with mechanical problems after a dismal day.
The result puts Alonso even further ahead in the title chase with 154 points to Webber’s 120 and Vettel's 110. Raikkonen takes fourth from Hamilton, 98 to 92, with Rosberg sixth on 76 and Button seventh on 68. In the constructors’ stakes, Red Bull have 230 points to Ferrari’s 177, McLaren’s 160 and Lotus’s 159.