Jun.24 (GMM/Inautonews.com) Bitterly disappointed on Saturday, Luca di Montezemolo chose the wrong moment to return to Italy.

The imperious Ferrari president, on a rare paddock visit, was visibly upset after Fernando Alonso qualified just eleventh at Valencia.

24 hours later, Spaniard Alonso was the darling not only of his team, but also of the rapturous partisan crowd in Spain’s host port city — and the only multiple race winner of 2012 and the new runaway championship leader by a huge 20 points.

Also on the podium were two other Ferrari champions: Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen who finished third, and Michael Schumacher, thoroughly enjoying the first podium of his comeback with Mercedes.

In the thrilling European grand prix, major title contenders Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton failed to score at all — the Red Bull succumbing to a sudden failure whilst commandingly leading, and a furious McLaren driver crashing with Pastor Maldonado.

Romain Grosjean was another casualty, who was a contender to challenge Alonso until his Lotus failed.

“He was one of the big stars of today,” said former team owner Eddie Jordan on British BBC1 television.

An unusually-emotional Alonso picked up a Spanish flag on the slowing down lap and then his F2012 broke down in front of the grandstands, where he enjoyed a dance with his delighted countrymen.

“The stands were full of colour and Spanish flags and, after the (Spanish) footballers won at Euro 2012, I am feeling very proud to be Spanish at the moment,” he said.

“Nothing really compares to this one,” he said.