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Who would have expected Fernando Alonso to lead the drivers standings at this stage? At the start of the season, he was given a car in which he can only dream of winning. But a matured Fernando Alonso and in-season updates means that the Spaniard is comfortably leading the standings by a margin of 40 points.
There are various reasons for the same. Firstly, he drove like a double-championship, making the most of opportunities thrown to him. At the very first race, Alonso gained 7 positions to finish in 5th place. He made the most of rain-interrupted Malaysian Grand Prix to win his first race of the season. Valencia was another example where Alonso consistently gained positions after starting from lowly 11th place and later took lead after Vettel and Grosjean retired due to mechanical problems. At Germany, he showed his raw pace with a dominant victory from pole position.
Secondly, the Spaniard used wet conditions in his favour. At the start of the season where the F2012 was way off the pace, Alonso used the wet conditions to win the Malaysian Grand Prix. He pitted earlier than the leaders on lap 4 for wet tyres and then gained positions after leaders Hamilton and Button lost time due to poor pit stop and accident respectively. He scored 2 pole positions this year(British and Germany), both of them were in wet conditions. Out of the two, Alonso scored a 2nd place at Britain where he lost a place to Webber at the end while he easily won at the following race in Germany.
Below expected performance of rivals, particularly McLaren - Another important reason for Alonso leading the champion is that his rivals in much better cars have failed to get the results they could have got. For instance, McLaren made multiple errors with Hamitlon's and Button's pit stops and the latter also suffered from high tyre wear and lack of grip. Red Bull, on the other hand who dominated the Championship last year aren't as fast this year thanks to ban of double diffusers. All this reasons meant a closer fight at the top.
Now, we review Alonso's season race-by-race.
At Melbourne, Alonso failed to make it into Q3 and started the race from a disappointing 12th place. However, he looked much strong in the race and kept Maldonado at bay in the closing stages to finish in a strong 5th place behind the two McLarens and the two Red Bulls.
Alonso started a wet Malaysian GP from 8th place and gained a few places by pitting earlier than rivals. When the race was red flagged because of damp conditions, he was already up in 5th place. When the race resumed, race leader Lewis Hamilton had a very slow pit stop while teammate Jenson Button was involved in an accident with Karthikeyan. Thus they both fell behind Alosno. He later overtook Perez and Webber in the pits to win his first race of the season.
China turned out to be a poor race for Alonso, the Spaniard started the race from 9th position and finished in the same position after failing to get the three stop strategy right. He lost lead in drivers standings to the two McLaren drivers after the race.
The 31 year old again qualified in 9th place at Bahrain but this time gained two positions to finish in 7th place. He lost places to the two Red Bull drivers in the drivers standings, namely Vettel and Webber after the race.
Alonso was back in business at his home race in Spain. He qualified in a strong 2nd place(after Hamilton's penalty) and overtook Maldonado at the very first corner to take lead as the delighted crowd cheered the Spaniard. However, the latter undercut Alonso in the 2nd round of pitstops to regain lead. Luckily for Alonso, his rivals failed to score many points and the Ferrari driver was back in the lead of drivers standings.
Alonso's qualifying performance at the inconic Monaco Grand Prix was quite average, he qualified in 5th place. But like previous races, Alonso looked very strong on race day and a great start and a equally good pit stop strategy helped him take his 3rd podium of the season.
Canada was the first race of the season where Alonso finished lower than he started. He started the race from 3rd place and undercut Vettel to take second. He could have finished in the same place but he chose to complete the whole race on a single stop which was too much to expect from the tyres. He suffered from severe tyre degradation at the end and easily lost places to two-stoppers and eventually finished in 5th place.
Valencia was probably the best race for the Spaniard where Alonso put on a great drive from 11th place to finish on top of the podium for the 2nd time this season. He consisetenly overtook drivers throughout the race and took the lead when front runners Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean retired due to mechanical problems. With this victory, Alonso regained the lead in drivers standings.
Alonso made most of the damn conditions to take his first pole of the season at Britain. On Sunday, Alonso led the race comfortably from the start and was set to win another race. But Webber had other ideas and a better strategy helped the Australian to overtake Alonso in the final stages and win the race.
Conditions were the same in qualifying a fortnight later in Germany and Alonso took back to back pole positions. However, unlike Britain, this time he didn't allow anyone to come close and went on to win the German GP comfortably over Vettel and Button
After three podium finishes including two wins in last three races, Alonso had a poor race at Hungary. He started the race from 6th place and gained one on Jenson Button to finish in 5th place. However, Webber, who was 2nd in the drivers standings behind Alonso finished in 8th place meaning Alonso further extended his lead to the Australian to 40 points.
by Rachit Thukral