Mark Webber chose the perfect strategy and paced his race to perfection to catch and pass Fernando Alonso in the closing stages and clinch his second British Grand Prix victory.
It was the ninth win of Webber’s career and his second of 2012. It was also his second British Grand Prix win to go with his second Monaco victory earlier this year. Webber’s Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel completed the podium.
The result moved Webber to just 13 points behind Alonso in the drivers’ world championship and confirmed him as Alonso’s closest championship rival. The double podium finish extended Red Bull’s advantage at the top of the Constructors’ Championship.
After a weekend of heavy rain, Silverstone surprisingly remained dry throughout the race, which was run entirely on slick tyres. With track temperatures fluctuating between 34 degrees and 29 degrees,
There was a further surprise in the race as the hard compound tyre proved to be faster than the soft and ultimately it was the final stint that proves decisive as Webber, who had started the race on the softs, ended on the hards, while Alonso was the other way around.
The greater structural strength of the hard tyre was important through the lateral loads in the high speed corners of sector 2 in particular, while drivers found that the soft tyre understeered more in the race. Pre-race expectations that it was up to a second faster than the hard proved inaccurate.
Ferrari had started Massa on softs and had data from his runs which indicated that the softs would perform reasonably well at the end, but Webber’s pace on hards was too much for Alonso, who had not been able to build enough of a lead over Webber in the early part of the race to maintain his position at the end. Webber stayed in touch with Alonso throughout the first two stints of the race, never allowing him to get too far ahead and then was able to catch and pass him with one decisive move around the outside of Brooklands corner with there laps to go.
“I have a few wins now, but this one is taking a little bit to sink in,” Webber said. “I think it didn’t look like a spectacular race with Fernando initially but it was on. There was a little bit of strategy involved, particularly pacing stints on tyres.
“I knew he was running a different way, and I thought after first stint he was in very good shape to close the win out, but it came our way in the last stint and I am absolutely over the moon.”
Alonso had controlled the race throughout as he kept a steady gap ahead of the Red Bull duo. However, the superior speed and durability of the prime tyre turned the race in Mark Webber’s favour as he took the lead with just four laps remaining. Vettel came close to making it a Red Bull 1-2 after an early pit stop put the double World Champion in contention for the race win. He had earlier been in a train of cars stuck behind Michael Schumacher but opted for the early stop after seeing the performance of the prime tyres. In the clear air he was able to jump from fifth to third.
Lewis Hamilton was the only other driver in the top ten to start on the prime tyre. But he was not able to exploit the advantage of the tyres; being caught in a queue of traffic behind Schumacher. When the traffic did clear during the first phase of pit stops he was 18 seconds off Alonso. He shortly held the lead but Alonso quickly regained first on fresher tyres. Hamilton eventually finished the race in 8th position.
Felipe Massa put in arguably his best drive of the season and his highest finishing position since Korea in 2012 to hold off a fast-charging Kim Raikkonen and take fourth place. Massa looked racey throughout as he hassled Schumacher in the early stages, taking third place but losing that position to Vettel after the pit stops.
Raikkonen headed home Lotus team mate Romain Grosjean as the pair gained another good haul of points for the team after swapping fastest laps in the closing stages of the Grand prix. Grosjean in particular produced yet another very good performance to overcome an early front-wing change and pass Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton.
Schumacher and Hamilton both had difficult races, starting from third and eighth and finishing seventh and eighth respectively, lacking pace throughout. Schumacher’s main struggles were on the prime tyre relative to other teams as he slipped down the field during the second half of the Grand Prix. Hamilton did a very short middle stint on the soft tyres, after running a long first stint on the hards which looked like it might have got him into contention for a strong points finish.
Bruno Senna and Jenson Button completed the top 10 of a lively race. Button made up four positions on the opening lap to make up for his poor qualifying but did not have the pace to progress in to the major points scoring positions.
In the early stages of the Grand Prix Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez were in amongst the points scoring positions. But a overtaking manoeuvre around the outside by Perez quickly ruined their days as Maldonado lost control and continued his run of assisting other drivers in early retirements. Maldonado managed to finish the race but in a lowly 16th. Perez described the Venezuelan as “stupid” and said that he and other drivers felt that he shouldn’t be in F1, with such driving.
Kamui Kobayashi compounded a bad day for Sauber when he locked up on the way into the pits and struck a member of his team. Kobayashi continued to 11th place, while the mechanic went to the medical centre for attention.
The three podium finishers all got trophies, but the fans deserved a medal for putting up with difficult conditions, muddy car parks and traffic problems all weekend. In the end the race provided a great end to the weekend, which had started off in such trying circumstances due to heavy rain.
[Additional reporting: Matt Meadows]
BRITISH GRAND PRIX, Silverstone, 52 Laps
1. Webber Red Bull 1h25:11.288
2. Alonso Ferrari + 3.060
3. Vettel Red Bull + 4.836
4. Massa Ferrari + 9.519
5. Raikkonen Lotus + 10.314
6. Grosjean Lotus + 17.101
7. Schumacher Mercedes + 29.153
8. Hamilton McLaren + 36.463
9. Senna Williams + 43.347
10. Button McLaren + 44.444
11. Kobayashi Sauber + 45.379
12. Hulkenberg Force India + 47.856
13. Ricciardo Toro Rosso + 51.241
14. Vergne Toro Rosso + 53.300
15. Rosberg Mercedes + 57.394
16. Maldonado Williams + 1 lap
17. Kovalainen Caterham + 1 lap
18. Glock Marussia + 1 lap
19. Pic Marussia + 1 lap
20. De la Rosa HRT + 2 laps
21. Karthikeyan HRT + 2 laps