Silverstone – Fernando Alonso, second in the Drivers’ standings started the eighth round of the World Championship from ninth on the grid, while the man who leads the series, Sebastian Vettel, was on the third spot. So how on earth could the gap between the two men plummet from 36 to 21 points in the course of the 90 minutes of the British Grand Prix?
Firstly, Vettel posted a retirement while leading and secondly, Fernando Alonso produced a simply storming drive to work his way up to the third step of the podium by the end of the 52 laps. It was yet another bravura performance from the Spaniard.
Ahead of the Ferrari man on the podium were winner Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes and Mark Webber second in the Red Bull.
From 9th and 11th on the grid respectively, Fernando and Felipe were planning a good start: Felipe got a brilliant drive off the line to be 5th on the opening lap, while Fernando dropped one to tenth. But on lap 2 the Spaniard was eighth on the tail of Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso.
At the front Hamilton maintained his pole position while Vettel in the Red Bull had got past Rosberg in the second Mercedes to be second, while Sutil was fourth ahead of Felipe who had simply driven down the side of everyone off the grid. Fernando had been delayed, boxed in off the line behind Grosjean in the Lotus.
By lap 5, Fernando was glued to Ricciardo’s gearbox but could not find a way past, so that ninth placed Grosjean in the Lotus was 0.7 off the Ferrari. In fifth spot, Felipe was almost a second behind Sutil’s Force India and had 0.7 in hand over sixth placed Raikkonen in the Lotus.
Webber in the Red Bull had been the big loser off the line, dropping from fourth to eleventh. On lap 8, the leader’s left rear tyre failed and Hamilton had to cruise slowly round to the pits. It would be the start of a series of serious tyre incidents that would change the shape of the race. This promoted everyone up a place, so that Vettel was the new race leader, followed by Rosberg, Sutil, Felipe now fourth, Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Fernando, as ahead of these two Grosjean had pitted.
Lap 10 and Fernando pitted for the Prime tyre, because his right rear tyre was disintegrating, fortunately at the very last corner, while Felipe had a big spin which undid all his earlier efforts, again caused by a rear tyre failure, dropping him back to sixteenth.
He then pitted, rejoining at the back of the field, as Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Button all pitted on lap 11. Next lap, Rosberg and Sutil pitted from second and third, followed by Hulkenberg in the Sauber. Lap 12 and Fernando passed Vergne in the Toro Rosso to be sixth. Race leader Vettel came in on lap 13, followed by Perez in the McLaren.
Another worrying puncture, this time for Vergne came on lap 14 and one lap later the Safety Car came out because of all the debris. At this point, with everyone having made one tyre change, the order was Vettel, Rosberg, Sutil, Fernando in fourth, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Ricciardo, Perez, Webber and Button completing the top ten. Lap 16 and Felipe pitted again profiting from the Safety Car, which eventually came in at the end of lap 21, after the track had been cleared of debris.
Fernando immediately started attacking third placed Sutil, while Felipe had managed to haul himself up to eighteenth. The Brazilian was catching Bottas in the Williams and the two men got past Vergne and then the Ferrari man got ahead of the Finn so that he was now 15th with Maldonado in the second Williams his next target. The only change in the top order at this point saw Ricciardo get ahead of Grosjean to take sixth, before the Australian set off in pursuit of Raikkonen, who was trailing Fernando by 8 tenths.
On lap 29 Raikkonen pitted the Lotus for new rubber followed by Fernando and Webber next time round. The Ferrari man headed away from the garage but had to slow to avoid another car cutting across him in pit lane, costing him fractions of a second and he dropped to eleventh place.
Then he was tenth on lap 32, setting the fastest race lap so far, as he closed to half a second of Raikkonen, now ninth. Fernando was on a charge and dispensed with Hamilton as Sutil, Perez and Di Resta all pitted together on lap 33. The second stops were coming thick and fast now, with Rosberg stopping on lap 34, followed by Vettel on lap 35.
Fernando’s pace dropped off for a while and Webber managed to pass him, but by lap 41, the Australian and the Spaniard were close together as they caught Raikkonen. The character of the race changed once more on lap 42, as the leader Vettel coasted to a halt on the pit straight, which brought out the Safety Car for a second time.
This was the time to dive into the pits for fresh rubber but not Fernando who had just changed tyres and that would play to his advantage. The remaining laps, once the Safety Car released the field again on lap 45, were incredibly exciting and not just if you were a Ferrari fan.
Rosberg finally appeared to be in a bit of trouble with his tyres and behind the German, a hard charging Webber dispensed with Raikkonen and then set about chasing the Mercedes. Fernando was flying now and took seventh place off Button on lap 46, then sixth off Ricciardo on 48.
Two laps later and he was all over Raikkonen and on lap 51, he passed the Finn at Stowe to get on the podium in third place. With two laps to go, Felipe had moved up to seventh spot and on the very last of the 52 laps, the Brazilian also dealt with Sutil to take the valuable 8 points that go with sixth place.
In just five days, the two F138s and the twenty other cars will all be back in action at the Nurburgring for Friday practice for the German Grand Prix. It goes without saying that the Scuderia’s priority in the short time available will be to look at how to improve the pace of its cars in qualifying on Saturday.
Stefano Domenicali: “We came to Silverstone with considerably different expectations in terms of performance to those we demonstrated this weekend and now our main objective is to immediately get an understanding of why we are in this situation. If we want to continue to fight for the championship, it is vital that we improve the car, because in performance terms, our rivals have made a further step forward.
Today, the points table matches the target we had set ourselves, which was to reduce the gap before the summer break. Both Fernando and Felipe drove amazing races and the team was able to manage the tyre problems in the best way possible. Now, there is little time to react and we can expect a busy few days in the run up to the German Grand Prix and we must use these days to look ahead, working calmly and steadily to find the answers to the questions that have been thrown up by this weekend”.
Fernando Alonso: “If I’d been told this morning that I would have ended up on the podium, I would not have believed it possible. Yesterday in qualifying, we finished a long way down and our expectations for this race were to aim for a fifth or sixth place, hoping to score as many points as possible.
After some negative experiences, today we can say we were lucky on a few occasions, beginning with Perez and then at the first stop with a completely worn out tyre – fortunately at the last corner – and then with Vettel’s retirement. At the end of a difficult weekend, it was unimaginable that we could make up so much ground, but now we must try and improve, starting with the very next race in Germany.
Only there will we understand if we have indeed slipped backwards or if this weekend was a one-off. Up until the Canadian Grand Prix we saw a Ferrari capable of fighting for the podium, but one that struggled a bit in qualifying, before then having a great race pace, so now the aim is to get back to that situation. It’s impossible to say what happened to the tyres and that’s something the experts will have to clear up”.
Felipe Massa: “I am very pleased with my race which this time was truly impeccable. After a fantastic start and a perfect first lap, maybe one of the best of my career, I managed to drive an attacking first stint. On lap 10, when I was right in the middle of the corner at Turn 5, my left rear tyre failed and I had to pit. After this forced stop, I found myself last and from then on, I began a great charge up the order, thanks to a lot of very nice passing moves.
Without that tyre problem I could have made it to the podium, because today I had a good feeling with the car and both myself and Fernando had shown we could fight with those at the front. Now, our greatest concern revolves around safety, because even if I can’t really tell what happened today, it’s unacceptable having to drive knowing you are not safe. Even if, luckily, nothing serious happened, what we saw is very dangerous.
I already had this problem twice before in Bahrain and if something isn’t done about it as soon as possible, I am sure it will happen again. In a few days we will be at the Nürburgring, a track I like a lot and where I hope to have a car that is more competitive in qualifying, so that I can start further forward, which would allow me to have another strong race”.
Pat Fry: “It was a spectacular race, but not an easy one to manage, because the two Safety Car periods and the problems concerning the tyres made the job on the pit wall very complicated. In order to try and prevent any possible tyre failure we made a few changes, aimed mainly at managing the pressures and we tried to give the drivers advice on how to deal with the difficult situation.
With Fernando, we were a bit lucky, whereas with Felipe we were not, but we can still take satisfaction from how we read the race, because the performance of both F138s improved compared to what we saw on Friday and Saturday. In the short time we have before the next race in Germany, we will try and work methodically on all aspects that could help us improve our performance, trying to find the right compromise between qualifying and the race, because, as we saw today, the points are only given out on Sunday”.