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Alonso doubles up in Spain to reclaim world championship lead

updated 9:51 AM EDT, Mon June 25, 2012
Fernando Alonso celebrates his famous victory in the European Grand Prix in Valencia in front of his Spanish fans.
Fernando Alonso celebrates his famous victory in the European Grand Prix in Valencia in front of his Spanish fans.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Fernando Alonso wins European Grand Prix in Valencia
  • Spaniard is first two-time winner of 2012 F1 season
  • Sebastian Vettel retires while leading in his Red Bull
  • Michael Schumacher on the podium for first time since his comeback

(CNN) -- Ferrari's Fernando Alonso became the first two-time winner of the unpredictable 2012 Formula One season as he triumphed in front of his home fans in Valencia to claim the European Grand Prix Sunday.

Alonso's win took him back to the top of the world championship standings with former leader Lewis Hamilton and defending two-time champion Sebastian Vettel failing to finish.

It has been a weekend of double sporting celebration for austerity-hit Spain after Xabi Alonso's two goals gave the defending champions a 2-0 quarterfinal win over France in Euro 2012 on Saturday.

"I cannot put into words the special feeling of winning your home grand prix," Alonso told the post race press conference.

"It is unique and special. The stands were full of color and Spanish flags and, after the footballers won at Euro 2012, I am feeling very proud to be Spanish at the moment. This is possibly the best victory I have ever had."

Fernando Alonso's drive to the top
I am feeling very proud to be Spanish at the moment. This is possibly the best victory I have ever had
Fernando Alonso

But coming from 11th on the grid, Alonso needed a touch of good fortune to complete his remarkable victory ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in a Lotus.

Red Bull's Vettel looked to be cruising from pole position to a third straight win on the street circuit in southern Spain, but his car suffered an engine failure on lap 35 of 57.

With Vettel's retirement, Romain Grosjean of France in his Lotus looked primed for his maiden victory, but he too suffered a sudden engine failure, both alternator problems according to pit lane sources.

There was bitter disappointment as well for McLaren's Hamilton, who was in third on the penultimate lap when he crashed out in controversial fashion as he tried to hold off Pastor Maldonado in the Williams.

Hamilton, who had scored in all previous rounds of the championship, flung his steering wheel away in frustration before marching back to the pits.

Venezuela's Maldonado slipped back to 10th after the collision, leaving Michael Schumacher to come through for his first podium finish since returning to F1 in 2010 with Mercedes.

"I asked my guys at the end of the race where I finished and when they told me third, I couldn't believe it. You lose count of where you are, it was busy at the end of the race," he said.

Maldonado was later penalized 20 seconds by race stewards, dropping him back to 12th, with temmate Bruno Senna taking 10th for Williams.

Force India pair Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta took a fine fifth and seventh, sandwiching Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes.

Jenson Button was eighth for McLaren, Sergio Perez in ninth for Sauber.

Alonso leads the title race on 111 points from Red Bull's Mark Webber in second on 91 after his fourth place finish in Spain. Hamilton has 88 with Vettel four points behind in fourth place.

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