Two-time champion Fernando Alonso thrilled a massive 95,000 flag-waving home crowd on Sunday when he drove his Ferrari to a dominant victory at the Spanish Grand Prix.
It was the Spaniard's second win of the season, in five races, and the 32nd win of his career - a triumph that endorsed his challenge for a third drivers' title on an afternoon of Spanish supremacy at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Driving with great aplomb, Alonso delivered a beautifully-judged performance to win a tactical contest dominated by tyre-wear management, finishing 9.338 seconds ahead of second placed Finn Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus.
Alonso said: "What a fantastic feeling, you feel the support from everybody, we wanted to do well here in front of our fans, so many people supporting Ferrari."
Alonso's Ferrari team-mate Brazilian Felipe Massa started from ninth, but finished third ahead of defending triple world champion Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber.
Alonso's win bucked a trend at the Catalan circuit where 18 of the previous 22 events were won the driver who started from pole position. This time the pole-sitting German Nico Rosberg of Mercedes finished sixth ahead of Paul Di Resta of Force India.
Jenson Button finished a measured eighth for McLaren ahead of his team-mate Sergio Perez with Australian Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso completing the top ten finishers.
Lewis Hamilton who started from second alongside Rosberg struggled hom 12th on a disappointing day for him and Mercedes.
Alonso picked up a Spanish flag from a steward on his slowing down lap and ignited national celebrations as he completed his tour of the crowded circuit.
In the drivers' championship, Alonso jumped to third with 72 points behind leader Vettel on 89 and Raikkonen on 85.
On a warm Spring afternoon in the Catalan hinterland, 25 kilometres from the capital, the air temperature was 21 degrees and the track was 35 degrees when the lights went out and pole-sitter Rosberg pulled clear of the field.
After falling from pole to finish ninth at last month's Bahrain Grand Prix, Rosberg was keen to take advantage of his prime starting slot, knowing that 18 of the previous races were won from pole.
Hamilton, starting second in an all-Mercedes front row, was unable to match his team-mate's pace or resist charges from both Vettel and Alonso on the opening lap which also saw Webber fall to 12th and Button to 17th.
The first round of stops saw Alonso pit early, on lap 10, and take advantage of a chance to charge that enabled him to take second from Vettel, after the champion's stop, and then the lead, by passing Rosberg, after lap 13 to the dancing delight of a capacity crowd of more than 100,000 Spanish fans.
By then, Frenchman Romain Grosjean had retired following a rear suspension failure on his Lotus.
Alonso pitted from the led after 22 laps gifting Vettel control for two laps before he came in and Raikkonen took over at the front. At this stage, it was difficult to create an accurate sense of competitive performance as the teams were working to different strategies.
Raikkonen then pitted after 26 laps, switching back to medium compounds, and Alonso took the lead again ahead of his Ferrari team-mate Massa, with Vettel third, nursing his front left tyre carefully under instructions from the Red Bull team.
Further down the field, there was the irony of seeing last year's two fastest qualifiers Hamilton and Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, who claimed his maiden triumph for Williams, scrapping for 14th place.
Told to take care of his tyres, Hamilton said: "I cant go any slower!"
Alonso, looking strong, extending his lead to seven seconds with 24 laps remaining before Raikkonen pitted again, leaving Massa to run second - until he also pitted again -- as Ferrari dictated matters from the front.
Another slick Ferrari stop after 50 laps left Alonso to charge to the flag and a spectacular Spanish success.
Story first published on: Sunday, 12 May 2013 19:42 IST