By Hannah Taylor, F1 Correspondent
- Victory at last for Scuderia Ferrari
- Webber told to ‘maintain the gap’
- Not a good day for British drivers
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso had the taste of success, as he took the chequered flag at an action packed 2011 Formula One British Grand Prix. The Spaniard picked up his first win since the Korean race last year, and stopped Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel from taking the top step of the podium once again this season.
Alonso explained how thrilled he was to get the unexpected victory.
“What a wonderful surprise! The team did an amazing job and I dedicate this win to everyone at Maranello and at the track, whose work has allowed me and Felipe to drive such a good car. It is a very special win because it comes at a legendary track like Silverstone, in front of a crowd that is so enthusiastic about cars,” described Alonso.
Despite starting in pole position and winning at Silverstone last year, Mark Webber had to settle for third place. Sadly, the three British drivers were not able to live up to, the home fan’s high expectations of a top result. Lewis Hamilton managed to secure fourth place, after having a few dramas in the race. It was a similar story for his McLaren team mate, Jenson Button, who experienced a pit stop error, which saw him retire from the race. Paul di Resta also had a run of bad luck despite starting from sixth position; the Scotsman ended the race out of the points in 15th place.
As the lights went out and the cars charged to the first corner, Vettel resumed his normal spot and snatched the lead from team mate Webber. The McLaren duo also had an up and down start, with Hamilton starting from 10th position and overtaking his team mate soon after. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa also made the most of his opportunity to pass the 2009 World Champion and get into fourth place at the time. By lap nine it was clear that Button was struggling for pace, and his intermediate tyres were worn out. On the following lap Button responded to Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher’s decision to pit for a tyre change.
It was then discovered that this was not the only reason for the German to pit, which encouraged the others to follow suit. His front nose cone was missing, after he and Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi came together. Schumacher appeared to lose the back end of his car under braking, which resulted in Kobayashi being collected in the process. The incident between the pair at Turn 6 caught the attention of the stewards who decided to investigate.
After deliberation it was reported that Schumacher would have to serve a stop and go penalty in the pits. The seven times World Champion was punished for causing a collision, and faced the consequences of his actions on lap 17. Consequently, he fell down the field from ninth after starting in 13th place, and dropped to 17th position following the penalty. On his way back into the midfield, Schumacher fought and gained positions over Lotus Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, and from lap 36 to 48 was on the tail of Petrov’s team mate, Nick Heidfeld. However, his fellow countryman failed to catch him in the closing stages, and Schumacher still finished in the top ten in ninth place.
Following Schumacher and Kobayashi’s incident, Button left the pits and resumed his race in seventh position on lap 12. The rest of the front runners were making their pit stops during this time, with Alonso going head to head with Webber and battling to get out ahead of each other. Button’s team mate Hamilton was scrapping with Massa for position on the track, and Massa was really struggling for grip. Whilst Alonso was in the pits for his tyres, his Brazilian team mate miraculously managed to hold on until it was his turn. Meanwhile, Button was on top form on his fresh set of tyres, as he set the fastest time on lap 14, with a 1:46.073secs from sixth place. Sadly, he was then held up temporarily by Massa and Hamilton, who continued their previous scrap for position. However, just a few laps later and all of the top drivers seemed to settle in their places, with Vettel still leading from Webber, then Hamilton was ahead of Alonso, who maintained fourth place from Button and Massa was in sixth position.
Button continued to race well from then on and around lap 17, the Englishman was just 12 seconds off the leader Vettel. When the second round of pit stops arrived the firs placeman changed from Vettel to Alonso. In the build up to the 2005 and 2006 World Champion snatching the lead from the German, Alonso seemed unstoppable and was on top form. It was a different story in the Red Bull pit box for Vettel though. There was a problem during the tyre change, when his left rear did not go on. The delay added 11 seconds to the reigning Champion’s time, which allowed Alonso to build his lead. The Red Bull pair dropped grid positions, as a result of Vettel’s disastrous stop and Webber’s tyre change. On lap 28 they were in third and fourth place respectively.
Meanwhile at the front of the field, Alonso was extending his lead from Hamilton, but the second placeman was not giving up on chasing him down. Hamilton attempted to use his DRS on Alonso, but did not get the right moment to do it. On lap 31 Alonso set an impressive lap time of 1:35.551, and Hamilton was soon under pressure from Vettel, who could not put his DRS to use at the time either. Webber was having his own issues, as he went on a detour off the track twice at Becketts. The Australian was following the pair beforehand, but eventually got himself back on track again. Hamilton’s efforts to keep Vettel in third place prevailed until the pit stops. Vettel took fifth place from him on lap 37, and rapidly moved closer to the top to take third place from Massa. Although Vettel could not catch the race leader, Alonso, who maintained his lead once he had been in the pits.
Disaster struck for Button on lap 40 as he was the victim of a pit stop error like Vettel. After exiting the pits he pulled over nearby, and it was discovered that his right front wheel nut was not on. As a result of this pit box malfunction, Button was forced to retire from his home race.
Button explained what happened in the pit stop, which led him to make a sudden exit from the race.
“… But, as I turned out of the pit lane, my right-front wheel came off and I was forced to stop immediately. They guy on the front-right lost the wheel nut and turned to take another; as he turned, I think his hand moved and the guy on the front jack felt that that was the trigger to lower the car. Then the lollipop lifted. Hopefully, we won’t have that sort of issue again. It’s disappointing – especially in front of the home crowd – because I was really enjoying the race,” described Button.
The situation for the team went from bad to worse just two laps later. Hamilton received a message over the team radio to save his fuel.
Consequently, Button was under investigation by the stewards for an unsafe release in the pits, and Hamilton would have the threat of his rivals bearing down on him. The situation turned into reality for Hamilton on lap 46, as Webber was able to cruise passed with ease, to take third place from the 2008 World Champion. Massa also spotted Hamilton’s vulnerability, as an opportunity to improve his final grid slot. The pair gave a dramatic and exciting display to the Silverstone crowd in the final lap. In desperation for Hamilton to maintain fourth, and Massa to gain that place, the scrap got heated to the point that they made contact. A mistake from Massa led him to run wide, which meant Hamilton kept his fourth place after all. Unfortunately, Massa remained behind in fifth place.
There was already another piece of action which occurred on the penultimate lap to catch the attention of the fans. Webber was upping his pace lap by lap in the closing stages, to the point that he was side by side with team mate Vettel. Webber was setting blistering times, and was the fastest in the first sector over everyone in the entire race. At first it appeared that there were no team orders given, as Webber was on the tail of Vettel. Suddenly via the team radio the message was given “Mark you need to maintain the gap, maintain the gap”. With instructions from the team in play, and little time left to the chequered flag, Webber held back and Vettel landed the second place finish instead.
Elsewhere in the field, Schumacher’s team mate, Nico Rosberg made steady progress in the beginning. The German was fighting for position with Williams driver Pastor Maldonado who was ahead of him in the early stages of the race. Kobayashi’s Mexican team mate Perez was also in the mix with the pair. Rosberg’s persistence paid off in the end over Perez, as he deployed his DRS, to grab 11th place from the rookie driver. Rosberg seemed to have an uneventful race as he made his way through the field. By the end of the 52 laps, Rosberg scored a solid finish in sixth position. Perez caught up a while later though, to finish just behind in seventh position.
Perez’s team mate did not experience the same fate though. Kobayashi had an unfortunate start to his race, as he spun on lap nine at Brooklands, which meant he lost two places and dropped to tenth place. This was linked to his contact with Schumacher on the very same lap. There was more drama to come in the pits, when the Japanese driver stopped for a tyre change. Kobayashi was in close proximity to Maldonado, and somehow managed to collect the Force India team’s wheel gun. After recovering from the pit stop chaos, the incident was then of interest to the stewards. Kobayashi was issued with a stop and go penalty on lap 21.
His earlier encounter with Schumacher resulted in a stop and go penalty for the former Ferrari driver. This time the shoe was on the other foot, and Kobayashi was forced to face the consequences of his actions. The stop and go penalties were chosen to be issued, rather than a drive through one just at Silverstone this season. The reason being that the FIA favour them due to the short pit lane at the circuit. The stewards gave the punishment to Kobayashi for an unsafe release pit stop. Kobayashi’s race came to an unfortunate end on lap 24. There was a puff of smoke from his car, and there had been concerns of overheating problems earlier in the race.
Despite Heidfeld successfully passing Kobayashi early on in the race using DRS, the Lotus Renault driver seemed to have everyone overtaking him for the rest of the time. Schumacher was one driver who made the move stick, and Toro Rosso’s Alguersuari was keen to get in on the action as well. Nevertheless, Heidfeld secured a top ten finish, and landed eighth place for himself.
The Toro Rosso team had experienced different fortune between the drivers. Although they were both passed by Schumacher in the race, one managed to finish while the other failed to reach the end. Alguersuari was the lucky one who quietly fought his way to take the final top ten point scoring position. Meanwhile, his Swiss team mate, Buemi suffered a puncture on one of his tyres, following a collision with di Resta.
The pair were going into Becketts, when they suddenly made contact. This resulted in di Resta losing his third front wing this season, but unlike Buemi the Scotsman still finished the race. Nevertheless, Buemi took the decision to stop at the Hangar straight, to avoid causing further damage to his car, or even an accident on the track going back to the pits. Before the contact with Buemi, di Resta was delayed in the pits, when he was nearly given his team mate, Adrian Sutil’s tyres. After adding time to his pit stop to resolve the problem, di Resta was released with the correct ones on his car. Unlike his rookie team mate, Sutil seemed to keep mostly out of the limelight, and just comfortably drove his way to the end of the race. The German came just outside of the top 10, and picked up 11th place ahead of Petrov for Lotus Renault.
Likewise, Rubens Barrichello in the second Williams, also seemed to keep out of the action. The Brazilian driver completed the race in 13th position just ahead of his team mate, Maldonado. The Venezuelan and rookie in the sport this season, had a steady race as well, other than the incident with Kobayashi in the pits on lap 12.
Towards the back of the field, the newest teams in Formula One kept themselves away from the action elsewhere. MarussiaVirgin Racing finished the highest of them all. Timo Glock got ahead of his Belgian team mate, Jerome d’Ambrosio, who had to settle for second best in 17th place. Their next rivals to finish were Hispania Racing, as the Team Lotus pair retired from the race. Vitantonio Liuzzi beat his rookie team mate, Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo to 18th position.
It was only on lap three of the race getting underway, that Heikki Kovalainen became the first retirement for Team Lotus. The Finnish driver made a promising start to his weekend, as he got through to Q2 yesterday and landed himself in 17th place. His early exit from the race was confirmed, when his car was pushed into the garage with suspected gearbox damage. Kovalainen’s Italian team mate, Jarno Trulli. managed to hold on a little longer to keep the team’s hopes of a good result alive. Sadly, Trulli’s race came to an end on lap 23, when he stopped at the final sector of the track.
After an eventful race and one that ended without Vettel on the top step of the podium, he is still very much in control of the Drivers’ Standings. He leads with 204 points, while Webber trails him with 124 points. Meanwhile, the gap between Webber and third place man Alonso has reduced after today’s result. Alonso is only 12 points adrift from getting into second place. There is an in team battle between Hamilton and Button, as they are currently equal with 109 points each. Massa is in sixth place at the moment, but 57 points behind the pair.
The Constructors’ Championship has even more of a gap between the teams. Red Bull are leading with a massive 328 points, and McLaren are maintaining second place at 218 points. Ferrari are in third position and having picked up good results today, now have 164 points to their name.
The drivers now have two weeks until their next racing battle will commence in Germany at the Nurburgring. Being Vettel’s home race, it is certain that he will be aiming for pole, and have his heart set on the race victory. However, as the sport is known for being unpredictable, along with the challenge of weather and rules, as today has shown, his closest competitors will be sure to give him a run for his money.