Renault's reigning world champion Fernando Alonso claimed victory in the British Grand Prix, his first win at Silverstone, with another faultless drive from pole to the chequered flag. Ferrari's Michael Schumacher put in a super-fast lap after his second pit stop to beat McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen to second and the Finn had to settle for third.
It was another hot and sunny day for the race, with the track temperature around 40 degrees at the start. It was a clean getaway in formation for the first five, pole man Alonso leading Raikkonen and Michael followed by Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella. Nick Heidfeld's BMW Sauber flew off the line to move up to sixth from ninth.
Juan Pablo Montoya's McLaren got a hefty bump from someone early on but he seemed to escape unscathed, and behind him there was trouble. Ralf Schumacher had a poor start from seventh and dropped back, while Toro Rosso's Scott Speed had a good start from 15th and the two clashed through Maggots and Becketts.
Speed made contact with the Toyota and Ralf was forced wide then veered back across the track, into the path of Mark Webber's Williams. The two cars collided, Ralf's Toyota sustaining some damage and both went off track and retired. Speed went into the pits but evidently was also too damaged to continue.
"We had a bad start and lost too many places and got into a mess," Ralf commented. "I didn't see anything; I had cars all over me." The stewards are investigating the situation -- it did appear that Speed was the one who initiated the accident, but the young American shrugged it off as a racing incident.
"I had an awesome start and tried to go round the outside of Ralf at Maggots and Becketts," Speed explained. "It was working, I was alongside him but I don't think he saw me. I was just one of those things, nobody was really to blame."
There was quite a bit of debris on the track from the Toyota and the safety car was deployed for a couple of laps while it was cleared. At the restart Alonso really backed the pack up and made a good getaway. Montoya got past the Honda of Rubens Barrichello for seventh and the top three were glued together at the front.
Michael attacked Raikkonen and they went side by side with a little pushing and shoving but Raikkonen held the Ferrari off. Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg's Williams had climbed to ninth and back-starter Jarno Trulli had got his Toyota up to 13th. BMW Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve and Red Bull's David Coulthard held station in 10th and 11th.
Montoya was closing on Heidfeld and Honda's Jenson Button, who started 19th, was also on the move, up the field to dispatch Toro Rosso's Tonio Liuzzi for 12th at Stowe. But it was a short lived charge for Button as his Honda abruptly spouted flames at the back, caused by an engine oil leak, and he went off into the gravel to retire.
"It was a massive blow up, and a massive blow as well," he said. I started 19th and was up to 12th and things were looking pretty sweet. I think I could have got past DC (Coulthard) in the next couple of laps. The car was working pretty well. It’s a shame for the British fans and particularly myself because I think we were in for a good race."
There was no change for a while in the top 10 order, with Alonso gradually pulling away from Raikkonen at the front and reeling off fastest laps on his way. Trulli was the first to pit, around lap 17 which was quite early as it was thought he would be heavily fuelled after starting at the back. Michael was next in, also quite early.
Everyone else peeled through the pits in fairly quick succession, Raikkonen and Massa next then Barrichello and Montoya. Fisichella managed to get ahead of Massa after his stop and Alonso rejoined in the lead after his. Montoya's McLaren had some damage to the side pod from his early bump but it didn't appear to be hugely affecting him.
The top eight order was then Alonso, Raikkonen, Michael, Fisichella, Massa, Montoya, Heidfeld and Rosberg. Heidfeld had some kind of problem in his stop which lost him time, otherwise he probably would have been higher up. Alonso was 12 seconds clear of Raikkonen, who had Michael homing in behind.
Villeneuve and Barrichello made up the top ten, then came Trulli, Coulthard, Klien, Liuzzi, the MF1s of Christijan Albers and Tiago Monteiro and the Super Aguris of Takuma Sato and Franck Montagny. The race had settled into a fairly static state of affairs and Michael was first to duck in for the second round of pit stops.
Raikkonen was in next and Michael put in an absolutely storming lap to beat the McLaren to the first corner as Raikkonen exited the pits. Alonso made another clean stop and rejoined ahead of Massa, so Ferrari couldn't make use of the Brazilian in any tactical way.
Michael just wasn't close enough to think about mounting a challenge on the Renault for the remainder of the race. In the final laps Fisichella was homing in on Raikkonen but despite the team's encouragement on the radio to get revenge for Suzuka, the Italian couldn't find a way past.
Alonso crossed the line 13 seconds ahead of Michael to claim his first British GP win. It was a deserved victory as the Spaniard didn't put a foot wrong the whole race. It's looking harder and harder to imagine anyone being able to wrest the title from Alonso's grasp -- although there's still a long way to go.
"The race was really competitive, and tough," said the winner. "We had a set-up on the car that meant it was quite understeery in the first part of the stint, but just got better and better and I could build a lead as the fuel loads came down -- although I had a little bit of graining in the second stint that slowed my pace. It was windy out there too, like all weekend, so that made things a little bit unpredictable, and we are not used to this heat in Silverstone."
"So it was never an easy win, but this shows we are working really hard. There's no secret to this fantastic season. We attack every race as a new challenge, we are concentrating all the time and there are no mistakes from the team. The best form of defence is attack -- and we showed that today."
Michael drove well enough -- his lap to get ahead of Raikkonen was a stunner -- but Ferrari can't match Renault at the moment. Massa did a solid job for fifth but didn't really play any part save to keep himself out of trouble and pick up some more points.
Michael was reasonably content with second. "Although there were no real problems with the car this weekend, we were simply not quick enough to win. We must work very hard now to come back right from the next race. But all in all, we should still be pleased with these eight points. There are still ten races to go with a hundred points to play for. Even though I am twenty three points behind Alonso, I don't think the fight for the championship is over."
Raikkonen was surely disappointed to lose second but conceded that McLaren doesn't have the straight line speed. He didn't do anything wrong, and neither did Montoya in sixth, but McLaren is not displaying the flair and competitiveness that it had last year.
However, Raikkonen believes the team is moving forward. "We were not as quick as Alonso and Schumacher and third place was the maximum possible, but I think the good news is that this weekend has shown we are moving in the right direction and are getting more and more competitive," he commented.
"I made a good start off the line and was able to maintain my second place. However I was not fast enough on the straights to pass Alonso. After the Safety Car came back in I could close the gap a bit, but that was it really. I suffered from oversteer towards the end of the race which allowed Fisichella to close up. However I wasn't too worried as I knew it would be almost impossible for him to actually overtake."
BMW Sauber got both drivers in the points, Heidfeld seventh and Villeneuve eighth. A good effort from the team, although Heidfeld may well have been a place higher if not for his overly long pit stop. Rosberg was ninth and Barrichello rounded off the top 10. Behind them it was Trulli and Coulthard, followed by Liuzzi, Klien, Albers, Monteiro, Sato and Montagny.
Silverstone was not exactly a thriller of a race; after the early incident and safety car period it settled into a rhythm with little in the way action, which was disappointing. Having Alonso, Raikkonen and Michael at the front of the grid had raised expectations for a good battle but it just didn't happen.
However, F1 next heads to Montreal and Indianapolis, two races that have been known to produce all sorts of peculiar incidents and unexpected results. Final top eight classification: Alonso, M. Schumacher, Raikkonen, Fisichella, Massa, Montoya, Heidfeld, Villeneuve.