Nico Rosberg made the most of Lewis Hamilton's tyre woes and Sebastian Vettel's DNF to win the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Having started P2 on the grid next to Mercedes team-mate Hamilton, Rosberg found himself down in P3 after the first corner. But a tyre failure for Hamilton and a gearbox failure for Vettel gave him a win that came under strong challenge from Silverstone favourite Mark Webber at the end. Fernando Alonso finished third ahead of a great recovery drive from Hamilton in P4.
Ross Brawn was predicting a track temperature that would be 10 or 12C higher than Friday when they completed their long runs and so judging tyre wear would be crucial in the racfe. After qualifying Paul DiResta's Force India had been found to be 1.5 kg underweight and was sent to the back of the grid.
Grid: 1.Hamilton, 2.Rosberg, 3.Vettel, 4.Webber, 5.Ricciardo, 6.Sutil, 7.Grosjean, 8.Raikkonen, 9.Alonso, 10.Button, 11.Massa, 12.Vergne, 13.Perez, 14.Hulkenberg, 15.Maldonado, 16.Bottas, 17.Gutierrez, 18.Pic, 19.Bianchi, 20.Van der Garde, 21.Chilton, 22.Di Resta
The sun was shining down on Silverstone with the ambient temperature up to 21C and the track at 32C. As the cars went off on their parade lap it was revealed that Button, Hulkenberg, Vergne and DiResta had all opted for the hard tyres.
As the lights went out Hamilton got a great getaway, in contrast Rosberg was very slow off the line and Sebastian Vettel was immediately past him into P2. Further down the grid there were some meteoric starts, Felipe Massa got the most amazing jump from P11 on the grid and shot past Fernando Alonso up into P5.
As the pack squeezed through the first turn Romain Grosjean moved wide to find a slow-starting Mark Webber there. The impact of the cars removed large sections of the Red Bull front wing and he fell to 15th place at one stage. Alonso had dropped behind Jenson Button at the start but managed to get past him on the first lap.
As the cars crossed the line the positions on Lap 1 were: 1.Hamilton, 2.Vettel, 3.Rosberg, 4.Sutil, 5.Massa, 6.Raikkonen, 7.Ricciardo, 8.Grosjean, 9.Alonso, 10. Button, 11.Perez, 12.Hulkenberg
Lewis Hamilton had opened up a 2.1 second gap by Lap 5 and looked to have everything under control. Alonso was making his way up through the field, past Grosjean on Lap 2 in an immaculate move inside the Frenchman at Woodcote, and by Lap 6, Alonso was pressuring Daniel Ricciardo into Vale.
But the complexion of the race was changed entirely on Lap 8 when Lewis Hamilton suffered the first of what would be a series of left rear tyre failures for cars up and down the grid. Worse still for Lewis, he suffered it on the Wellington Straight with three-quarters of the lap still to run. He got the car back to the pits without damaging too much of the bodywork (unlike Perez in practice).
At the end of Lap 9 Romain Grosjean and Paul Di Resta pitted which brought on a series of stops. Before they could happen, Felipe Massa was spinning his car at Turn 4 after another rear left tyre failure sent the Ferrari driver back to the pits on Lap 10. Lap 10 saw Alonso and Mark Webber into the pits with Webber taking advantage of a nose change to mend his damaged front wing.
On Lap 11, Raikkonen, Button and Ricciardo pitted. At this stage of the race Vettel had a 3.3 second gap over Nico Rosberg - and both looked to be running longer than the cars behind.
On his new tyres Alonso was soon making progress and he was past Raikkonen on Lap 12 just as Sutil and Nico Rosberg headed for the pits. Fernando then overtook the yet-to-stop Jean-Eric Vergne on Lap 13 and was up to P6.
Vettel was into the pits on Lap 13 and the Red Bull mechanics were alarmed to find quite a few cuts in the rubber on Sebastian's discarded medium tyres. After the first stops had shaken out the positions were:
Positions on Lap 15: 1.Vettel, 2.Rosberg, 3.Sutil, 4.Alonso, 5.Raikkonen, 6.Grosjean, 7.Ricciardo, 8.Perez, 9.Webber, 10.Button, 11.DiResta, 12.Hulkenberg
The reason that Jean-Eric Vergne wasn't on that list is because "Jev" had a frightening tyre blow-out at 300kph on the Hangar Straight which he just managed to control going into Stowe. After three blow-outs (all left rears) the decision was taken to put out the Safety Car to clear up all the debris.
The cars that had yet to stop for tyres came in for their new sets which elevated Lewis Hamilton up to P14 for the restart. The Safety Car picked up the leaders, the marshals went out on track to collect large chunks of rubber, and by Lap 22 we were racing again. Mark Webber overtook Sergio Perez on the re-start and was up to P8. From last place Felipe Massa was straight up to P18.
By Lap 25 Sebastian Vettel had opened up a 2.1 gap, though Alonso had fallen off the back of Adrian Sutil. Vettel and Rosberg continued to edge clear and by Lap 28 Vettel's lead was 4.0 seconds and Rosberg was 7.7 seconds ahead of Sutil.
Kimi Raikkonen started off the second round of pit-stops by coming in at the end of Lap 29. Fernando Alonso moved to cover Alonso by pitting on Lap 30 and Webber came in on Lap 31. Raikkonen managed to get in front of Alonso at the stops.
Further back down the field Lewis Hamilton was finding it tougher than he probably expected to get past the Force India of Paul DiResta - with Paul in P7 and Lewis in P8. Behind them they had the fast-closing Raikkonen and Alonso on fresh tyres. On Lap 33 Kimi swept past Lewis in Copse and then Alonso followed through into Maggots.
It wasn't long before Mark Webber was also past the Brit who was making his Pirelli tyres last for a very long second stint. Nico Rosberg came in at the end of Lap 34 and the positions were: 1.Vettel (one stop), 2.Rosberg, 3.Raikkonen, 4.Alonso, 5.Webber, 6.Hamilton (one stop), 7.Sutil, 8.Ricciardo, 9.Massa, 10.Perez, 11.Grosjean, 12.Button.Vettel pitted for the second time on Lap 35 and on Lap 36 he re-emerged with a 2.5 second gap over Rosberg. Mark Webber's progress through the field had been constant all afternoon, often using the outside line into Brooklands corner at the end of the Wellington Straight to make his pass. On Lap 35 he used the DRS at the end of the Hangar Straight to ease himself past Alonso for P4.
Lewis Hamilton's late stop put him back in contention with old adversary Paul Di Resta and battle was resumed yet again, Hamilton finally taking the place on Lap just before the cars emerged onto the Wellington Straight.
At the front it looked like we had a race on our hands as Vettel's lead came down from 2.2 seconds on Lap 38 to 1.6 seconds on Lap 39. Daniel Ricciardo was harrying Adrian Sutil and there was almost a coming together into Copse on Lap 40 as Sutil moved across on the Toro Roso very close to the high-speed corner entry. Ricciardo raised his hand in protest.
Cameras had no time to dwell on the battle because all of a sudden Sebastian's Red Bull was touring at the beginning of Lap 41. The World Champion had no drive as fifth gear went, taking the other gears with it. What's more, his car stopped in a dangerous position on the inside of Woodcote and so we had the second Safety Car of the afternoon.
Fernando Alonso had just pitted for tyres when the Safety Car was released and immediately Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber headed for the pits for fresh tyres. Crucially, Kimi Raikkonen did not and was soon on the radio asking why not. Rosberg was able to get in and out still in the lead but as they lined up behind the SC it was: 1.Rosberg. 2.Raikkonen, 3.Sutil, 4.Ricciardo, 5.Webber, 6.Perez, 7.Button, 8.Alonso, 9.Hamilton, 10.Grosjean, 11.Massa, 12.Maldonado
On Lap 45 we were racing again and it was immediately obvious that the cars who had taken on new tyres were in a strong position. Webber, Alonso and Massa were all able to make easy passes and progress through the field - plus the late-changing Lewis Hamilton who was still only on his second set.
Fernando Alonso came up behind the back of the fast-fading Sergio Perez on Lap 46 when suddenly Perez' left rear tyre gave way. Luckily for Fernando he was about to go right of the Mclaren, had he gone left he would have had a tyre belt in his face. Because the field was bunched after the last Safety Car, there was a gap to recover the debris and no need for a third.
On Lap 47 Alonso had made it up to Daniel Ricciardo at Vale and just as soon as the Ferrari driver was past, so too was Hamilton. On the same lap we had one of the mightiest overtaking moves of all time - Mark Webber on Kimi Raikkonen into Copse corner. There was no DRS involved as the drivers went side by side on the old start/finish straight and through Copse side by side! By Maggots Mark had shaken Kimi off, but it was a pass to remember.
Alonso caught Raikkonen on Lap 49 and dispossessed him of his podium position by Lap 50. Hamilton took P4 off the Finn on the penultimate lap. Hamilton was also pressing Alonso hard and Webber hadn't given up the chase on Rosberg for P1. He was 1.1 seconds adrift on Lap 51 which was too big a gap to close on the final lap.
Rosberg took the win, followed home by Webber, Alonso, Hamilton, Raikkonen a fast-finishing Massa who charged by Sutil in the closing stages to take P6, Sutil, Ricciardo, DiResta and Hulkenberg. Perez retired his car with too much bodywork damage and Mclaren's failure to change Button left Jenson short of tyres at the end.
It had been a dramatic British Grand Prix with incidents and accidents, but the strongest memory will be of disintegrating tyres (for which the inside kerbing at Turn 4 could well be the issue) and some brilliant side-by-side action with no serious contact. The biggest cheer of the day was not for Lewis Hamilton or Mark Webber but for the sight of Vettel retiring. The promotional arm of the Red Bull team can't be happy that their car's demise was such a crowd-pleaser.
1. Rosberg Mercedes 1h32:59.456
2. Webber Red Bull +0.765
3. Alonso Ferrari +7.124
4. Hamilton Mercedes +7.756
5. Raikkonen Lotus + 11.257
6 Massa Ferrari +14.573
7 Sutil Force India +16.335
8 Ricciardo Toro Rosso +16.500
9 Di Resta Force India +17.993
10 Hulkenberg Sauber + 19.700
11 Maldonado Williams + 21.100
12. Bottas Williams +25.000
13 Button McLaren +25.900
14 Gutierrez Sauber +26.200
15 Pic Caterham +31.600
16 Bianchi Marussia +36.000
17 Chilton Marussia +1:07.600
18 van der Garde Caterham +1:07.700
19 Grosjean Lotus +1 lap
Perez McLaren lap 47
Vettel Red Bull 42
Vergne Toro Rosso 36