In many ways, Silverstone and this year’s British Grand Prix will be remembered as a microcosm of the 2013 Formula One season; whether it’s for Nico Rosberg’s edgy victory, Mark Webber’s struggle against the odds, Fernando Alonso’s podium from the midfield or McLaren’s stunning tactical incompetence.
The race was marred but enlivened by a series of tyre-related issues emanating from a razor-sharp kerb at turn 4 of the circuit.
Qualifying had seen Lewis Hamilton take his 2nd British GP pole position, following on from his 2007 success, but the Briton had seemingly taken plenty of life out of his fragile tyres doing so; he was 0.4 faster than team-mate Rosberg and gave Mercedes their 3rd front-row lockout of the season. Red Bull, previously invincible at the Northamptonshire circuit, had to settle for 3rd and 4th for Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. Scot Paul Di Resta set 5th fastest time and was initially overjoyed before the FIA found his car to be underweight, and excluded the Force India driver from the qualifying results. Jenson Button struggled with the lacklustre McLaren MP4/28 and could only manage 11th place, which became 10th when Di Resta was consigned to the back of the grid.
Rosberg certainly didn’t have a easy run to victory (despite claims by Lewis Hamilton to the contrary) ; team-mate Hamilton led for much of the opening sequence until a dramatic explosion tore the left-rear Pirelli from his Mercedes and handed the lead to rival Sebastian Vettel. The German picked up the baton and ran with ease, heeding warnings from his team that the Pirelli rubber was causing chaos through the field.
After Hamilton’s dramatic fall from grace, things took a sinister turn as Felipe Massa and Jean Eric Vergne also suffered huge delamination failures and left debris across the circuit that necessitated the deployment of the Safety Car – much to the benefit of the recovering Hamilton. After the restart, Vettel easily re-established his advantage over Rosberg and began to stretch his lead into the final third of the race.
Hamilton quickly went into battle with compatriot Paul Di Resta and, to the surprise of his fans, was unable to make the pass for more than an entire lap; the Scot fought ferociously against the faster Mercedes and only gave up the place as he took to the pitlane.
But, just as it all seemed over, the Red Bull of Vettel gave a grinding crunch and gently coasted to a halt through Club, as the German coolly explained he had lost his gearbox. As Rosberg surged past, the Safety Car was called into action once again and tantalisingly bunched up the field with a mere 7 laps left on the board. Webber immediately seized the opportunity to pit for fresh rubber and after a torrid start had seen him slip from 4th to 15th, was poised and ready to pounce from 5th. McLaren had done well to weather the storm of chaos and get Perez and Button up into 6th and 7th places, but it was all thrown away as the team inexplicably chose not to pit either of their drivers – when racing got back underway Perez was quickly eliminated with a tyre failure as Button’s stricken McLaren slipped ever further down the order. The Briton eventually ended up 13th.
Up front the adrenalin was flowing again as Webber dispatched Sutil and Ricciardo before turning on Alonso and Raikkonen in the battle for the podium. The Australian, enjoying his last ever British Grand Prix, hunted down the leading Rosberg and came within 0.7 seconds of his 3rd Silverstone victory as the duelling duo crossed the line.
Alonso put in a stellar performance to haul his erstwhile uncompetitive Ferrari on to the final podium slot, ahead of Hamilton, Raikkonen, Massa, Sutil, Ricciardo, Di Resta and Hulkenberg.
“This win is for every single person who has been involved in building our car. It was a shame for Lewis today, and I had also a problem with my tyre but I was lucky because of the Safety Car. It was so special to win today, especially in front of fellow team members and their families as our factory is only ten minutes away from the track. The race was really exciting. I had to manage the tyres really carefully, I was told to avoid the kerbs. At the end, it was difficult to hold Mark and to look after my tyres but I was able to keep the position, and take a great victory for us.” Nico Rosberg