Fernando Alonso took his first victory of 2011 at Silverstone today, comprehensively beating the two Red Bull drivers in a race that was filled with incident, overtakes, and some messy pit stops.
Sebastian Vettel, who lost the lead of the race in a slow pit stop, still extended his lead in the championship by finishing second. Team-mate Mark Webber, who started on pole position, finished third.
Lewis Hamilton was the highest-placed Brit. He just held on to fourth place after a battle with Felipe Massa in the final few corners of the grand prix.
Paul di Resta was let down by confusion from his pit crew and finished his first British Grand Prix down in fifteenth place and Jenson Button had to retire from the race after one of his tyres was not fitted properly during a pit stop.
There was no rain during the race today, but some pre-race precipitation had left the drivers with a tough decision on tyre choice before the start of the grand prix. The section of track around Luffield, Becketts and Copse were damp enough for the full wet tyres, but the pit straight was dry enough for slicks.
The entire field chose to start the race on the intermediate tyres – a wise decision judging by the spray kicked up on the formation lap.
As the lights went out, Sebastien Vettel got the perfect start and overtook pole-sitting team-mate Mark Webber off the line. Jenson Button got past Felipe Massa off the line whilst Lewis Hamilton got up to seventh from his starting position of tenth. Michael Schumacher also got a good start – he jumped from P13 to P10.
Hamilton made up another place on the first lap, overtaking Paul di Resta without much trouble. On the second lap, Massa took fourth place back from Button, and Hamilton also overtook his McLaren team-mate. The charging Hamilton then went wide at Brooklands on Lap 4 as he was sizing up Felipe Massa, but did not lose a position.
At the end of Lap 5, Vettel had a lead of 4.6 seconds over his team-mate, and Fernando Alonso was a further 3.5 seconds down. At this early stage of the grand prix, Red Bull looked comfortable.
The drivers continued to stay out on intermediate tyres as they waited for the track to dry. Some were taking care of the tyres through the dry sections better than others though, and gaps were closing between the front runners. Alonso was catching Webber in second, and Hamilton was catching Alonso in fifth.
Michael Schumacher had an altercation on Lap 10 with Kamui Kobayashi and had to pit for a new nose. He took the opportunity to take on some slick tyres at the same time and, within two laps, the seven-time world champion was setting fastest sectors. Schumacher later got a ten-second stop/go penalty for causing the accident.
And so began a trickle of drivers into the pits for a set of the dry tyres. Button was the highest placed driver to pit at the end of Lap 11, but Webber, Alonso and Hamilton all came in on Lap 12. Vettel nad Massa came in at the end of Lap 13.
There was almost a crash in the pit lane between Kobayashi and Pastor Maldonado after the Sauber team released Kobayashi into the path of the Williams driver. Kobayashi ran over a couple of Force India wheel guns as he took evasive action, and later got a stop/go penalty for the unsafe release.
After everybody had stopped, and after Jenson Button had overtaken Massa and Hamilton had executed an excellent pass on Alonso, the top six at the end of Lap 15 was Vettel, Webber, Hamilton, Alonso, Button and Massa.
Alonso was the fastest man on track at this stage of the race and used DRS to overtake Hamilton on Lap 24. Hamilton pitted at the end of that lap for a new set of soft tyres. The old set had done just 11 laps.
Paul di Resta's race was ruined when he came in for his second stop. His Force India team had a set of Sutil's tyres ready instead, and so Di Resta had to sit stationary whilst his pit crew found the correct tyres.
At end of Lap 26 – half race distance – Webber, Button and Massa all came in for their second stops, but Alonso chose to stay out to stay out another lap, as did race leader Sebastian Vettel. There was drama at Vettel's stop though: the Red Bull pit crew could not get the left-rear tyre on the car. Alonso got out of the pits ahead of him, and Hamilton got up to second place. The top six was now Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel, Webber, Button and Massa
Alonso quickly made use of his faster car to pull out a big gap. Hamilton fell into the clutches of Vettel but, despite the world champion having DRS at his disposal, he could not take that second place.
By Lap 35, Alonso's lead was up to 9.8 seconds, and it looked like only a heavy downpour would deny the Spaniard victory.
Vettel came in for his third and final stop at the end of Lap 36, as Red Bull decided to find the German some clear air instead of having him held up by Hamilton. McLaren had to cover Vettel with a stop of their own next time round, but they still lost the position.
After a quick pass on Felipe Massa, Vettel was now free to hunt down Alonso, who still had one more stop to make.
Webber came in on the next lap, and Alonso and Button followed next time round. Button left the pits without his right-front wheel attached properly, and had to stop at the end of the pit lane. There would be no first podium at Silverstone for Button today.
Alonso had no such problems in his pit stop, and by the end of Lap 40 was 10.3 seconds ahead of Vettel. That gap just continued to grow, and it was race over.
Hamilton was not going to challenge anybody at least. His McLaren team told him that he needed to save fuel if he wanted to see the chequered flag, but he had a fast Mark Webber – eager to get on the podium himself – bearing down on him. Hamilton tried to hold him off but, six laps from the end of the race, Webber made a move stick, and there would be no British drivers on the podium.
In the penultimate lap of the grand prix, a quick Webber caught up with his team-mate, who seemed to be struggling for pace. He had one move into Luffield, but could not make it stick. After that, Red Bull told Webber to hold position.
Alonso took his first victory since last year's Korean Grand Prix. Vettel followed ahead of Webber. There was contact between Hamilton and Massa in the final corners of the grand prix as Massa edged ahead of the McLaren. Bits of McLaren front wing flew around but Massa went wide at the final corner and Hamilton somehow managed to hold on to take fourth place.
British Grand Prix 2011: Provisional Race Result
|2||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||52||+16.5 secs||18||Report|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull||52||+16.9 secs||15||Report|
|4||3||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren||52||+28.9 secs||12||Report|
|5||6||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||52||+29.0 secs||10||Report|
|6||8||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||52||+60.6 secs||8||Report|
|7||17||Sergio Perez||Sauber||52||+65.5 secs||6||Report|
|8||9||Nick Heidfeld||Renault||52||+75.5 secs||4|
|9||7||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes||52||+77.9 secs||2||Report|
|10||19||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso||52||+79.1 secs||1||Report|
|11||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India||52||+79.7 secs||Report|
|12||10||Vitaly Petrov||Renault||52||+80.6 secs|
|13||11||Rubens Barrichello||Williams||51||+1 Lap||Report|
|14||12||Pastor Maldonado||Williams||51||+1 Lap||Report|
|15||15||Paul di Resta||Force India||51||+1 Lap||Report|
|16||24||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing||50||+2 Laps|
|17||25||Jerome D'Ambrosio||Virgin Racing||50||+2 Laps|
|18||23||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Hispania Racing||50||+2 Laps||Report|
|19||22||Daniel Ricciardo||Hispania Racing||49||+3 Laps||Report|
|Ret||4||Jenson Button||McLaren||39||Wheel nut||Report|
|Ret||18||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso||25||Accident damage||Report|
|Ret||16||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber||23||Oil leak||Report|
|Ret||21||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus||10||Oil leak||Report|
|Ret||20||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus||2||Gearbox||Report|