While Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso won an emotional European Grand Prix in front of his fellow countrymen in Valencia, Bathgate’s Paul di Resta returned to point-scoring form.
The 26-year-old Scot, who started from tenth on the grid in his Mercedes-powered Sahara Force India, delivered another masterclass in tyre-preservation to finish seventh.
“We were the on team to opt for a one-stop strategy,” said Di Resta, who has now scored 27 points in the opening eight grands prix, matching his total for the whole of last season. “We did the first 24 laps on the first set of tyres, which meant I had to complete the final 33 on the last set.
“We were helped by the laps we spent behind the safety car, but in the end I really began to struggle for grip over the closing laps.
“As result, I lost places to Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes, and the Red Bull of Mark Webber. Both of them were on fresher rubber. Obviously that dropped me back, but then I was able to take advantage of the clash between Pastor Maldonado and Lewis (Hamilton), so that gave me back the couple of positions I’d lost.”
Maldonado ripped into Hamilton after their latest on-track bust-up, although he was later found to be the guilty party.
Maldonado and Hamilton collided for a third time in Formula One following incidents in Monaco and Belgium last year, with the latter suffering heavily after being punted into a wall on the penultimate lap of the European Grand Prix.
Desperately attempting to hold on to third place with badly worn rear tyres, Hamilton found himself under attack from Maldonado at the end of the DRS zone going into the right-hander turn 12.
Correctly holding his line as Maldonado attempted to pass around the outside in his Williams, the Venezuelan had to run off track.
When Maldonado rejoined moments later at the left-hander turn 13, he ran into the side of Hamilton’s McLaren, forcing him off and out of the race. Entering the final lap of the scheduled 57, Di Resta was lying sixth and on course to match his best-ever F1 finish for the third time, but in the closing few corners he was caught and overtaken by the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.
“Yeah, that was disappointing,” Di Resta admitted, “but in many ways I was just a sitting duck because the car was struggling so much for grip.
“But after the disappointments we suffered last time out in Montreal, where we didn’t score any points, to have both our cars finish in the top ten was excellent.”
And Di Resta is already looking forward to the next race of the season, the British Grand Prix in a fortnight at Silverstone. “We had a great qualifying at last year’s British Grand Prix and ran as high as sixth in the race before had a problem at the pitstop,” the Scot continued. “I’m confident we won’t have any of those issues this year, and with the pace we’re currently delivering, I know we’ll be fast and competitive.
“It’s always great to race in front of my home fans, and this year I’m determined to give them something to really cheer about.
Ferrari ace Alonso, meanwhile, drove a controlled, aggressive race from a distant 11th on the grid to win the 29th grand prix of his career.
“This is a very, very emotional victory for me,” said the proud Spaniard, who stopped his car in front of two packed grandstands to celebrate with his fans, beamed.
“Nothing beats winning a grand prix in front of your home fans and to do it in such dramatic way just makes it all the more special.”
Double world champ Alonso, who now leads the championship from Webber, who finished fourth, was joined on the podium by fellow F1 champions Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher. It was the Mercedes driver’s best result since he came out of retirement in 2010.
But the result of the race was altered dramatically when the Red Bull of defending world champ Sebastian Vettel, and the Lotus of Raikkonen’s team-mate Romain Grosjean, retired when they were first and second respectively.