Nico Rosberg claimed victory at the British Grand Prix in an extraordinarily eventful race that illustrated Formula One in its greatest and most negative light, with five tyre failures marring what was a spectacular race.
Lewis Hamilton was the first victim of a high speed delamination as he led the race in the opening stages and handed the lead to a fast starting Sebastian Vettel. He had managed to jump Rosberg from the start line and inherited the lead on lap eight following Hamilton’s misfortune.
There were further tyre failures in the following laps for Felipe Massa, Jean-Eric Vergne, Esteban Gutierrez and for Sergio Perez in the closing laps. This heaps even more pressure on Pirelli and questions the fragility of the tyres that are unable to cope with the loads of a Formula One car.
It was particularly dangerous in the case of Vergne and Perez who both had drivers close behind them at the time of the explosion. Grosjean and Alonso were those in the tow of the respective cars and were lucky in avoiding contact with the flailing rubber.
After Hamilton’s issue, Vettel controlled the race and looked to be increasing his Championship lead with another Silverstone Red Bull victory as Rosberg sat a couple of seconds behind. However a transmission failure with ten laps remaining saw his RB9 grind to a halt on the pit straight and bring out the safety car, prompting a flurry of late pit-stops and a seven lap sprint to the finish.
During this final phase the podium finishes had each opted to pit for fresh tyres, both in the hope of scoring some strong points whilst also negating the chances of a further tyre failure.
As the Safety Car pulled in at the end of the fourty-fifth lap Rosberg had a clear road ahead and on a fresh set of the hard compound tyre he was expected to drive away with Webber and Alonso being held up within the pack.
But with the two on near-new option tyres they carved through the cars ahead and Alonso cut Vettel’s Championship lead to just twenty-one points.
Webber got to within 7/10ths of a second of the race win and may well have taken a popular victory in his final British Grand Prix should there have been one more lap. But this was not to be and Rosberg took his third career victory in a race that became as much a battle of attrition as it was a show of speed.
Following Hamilton’s tyre failure, the sister Mercedes had to complete nearly a full lap to return to the pits and he dropped to the back of the field. From there and under the radar the pole-man edged up in to the points and found himself in a strong position heading in to the final sprint.
He latched on to the back of Alonso and followed him through a number of cars, including Raikkonen, Sutil and Ricciardo, and the Brit ended the race just 6/10ths behind Alonso and the final spot on the podium.
Completing the top six were strong drives by Raikkonen and Massa, having differing races but scoring some good points. Raikkonen kept his nose clean and sat in second place following the final Safety Car period but he questioned his team’s choice to not pit him as Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari did and this turned out to be his downfall. He had nothing to answer the cars on fresher tyres and eventually slipped to fifth place.
Massa, meanwhile, suffered a tyre failure in a very similar place to Hamilton as he entered the Wellington Straight towards Brooklands and saw himself drop down the order from a strong start in which he sat in fifth place. And like Hamilton he raced through the field to take sixth place and boost his confidence after a difficult run of recent races.
Tomorrow’s edition of Driver of the Day is set to split opinions as the Force India pair of Adrian Sutil and Paul Di Resta also had a good outing for the Silverstone based team. Sutil was sat in third place after Hamilton dropped back, but he stayed out too long on his second set of medium tyres and allowed Raikkonen and Alonso through as he pushed to limit the race to two stops.
He eventually came home in seventh, like Raikkonen losing out to Webber, Alonso and Hamilton in the late stages of the race.
Di Resta, starting from last place following an underweight car in qualifying, took ninth place as he avoided the large amount of Pirelli debris that littered the circuit.
The Force India pair sandwiched Daniel Ricciardo for Toro Rosso, another driver to deliver a good drive on the day. During the race he was involved in battles with the two Lotus cars and Fernando Alonso – doing no harm to his hopes of a seat in the parent team next year.
BRITISH GRAND PRIX, Silverstone, Race, 52 Laps
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1h32:59.456
2. Mark Webber Red Bull + 0.765
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari + 7.124
4. Lewis Hamilton Lotus + 7.756
5. Kimi Raikkonen Mercedes + 11.257
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari + 14.573
7. Adrian Sutil Force India + 16.335
8. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso + 16.500
9. Paul Di Resta Force India + 17.993
10. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber + 19.700
11. Pastor Maldonado Williams + 21.100
12. Valtteri Bottas Williams + 25.000
13. Jenson Button McLaren + 25.900
14. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber + 26.200
15. Charles Pic Caterham + 31.600
16. Jules Bianchi Marussia + 36.000
17. Max Chilton Marussia + 1:07.600
18. Giedo van der Garde Caterham + 1:07.700
19. Romain Grosjean Lotus + 1 lap