Is there a German version of hide-and-seek? If so, Sebastian Vettel must have played it as a child with all the verve and the sparkle he used to run away and hide from the field in Sunday's British Grand Prix.
Vettel won by a tidy 20 seconds ahead of Red Bull teammate Mark Webber and Brawn GP best hope Rubens Barrichello, who matched a third-place finish from last year. Vettel and Webber completed their second Red Bull one-two of 2009. Vettel set fast lap about -- how many laps was the race, 60? -- well, very many times but he was accorded a 1 minute, 20.735 seconds for a clean sweep: pole, race and fast lap. Webber equaled his best finish in Formula One for a third time this season.
"Woohoo!" the second-youngest driver in the field cried into his radio after taking the checkered flag. A questionable starter, Vettel was sure-footed away from the line. He pulled out nearly a second a lap from the start to establish dominance. His victory was welcomed by a teeming crowd not sure if they were seeing the final grand prix at Silverstone, a racetrack within 20 miles of seven of 10 teams' factories. The race is scheduled to move to Donington next year, though F1 scheduling is a bit fluid at the moment.
"It's fantastic," Vettel said. "It shows we're on the right way. Everyone has worked so hard. It was kind of last minute, but we did it. I want to thank Silverstone. I enjoyed it so much. I have to thank every single person in the grandstands.
"This is what I was dreaming of when I watched British grand prixs when I was younger, when (former race winner and 1992 World Champion Nigel) Mansell was driving. It's almost unreal now to think that I'm here and I've made it. I've won this grand prix and I'm very happy."
Webber spoke like a man identifying missed chances and closing in on the day his team decides to back Vettel's championship hopes:
"It's a great day for the team," Webber said. "I'm disappointed not to take the win, but I think I lost my chance for victory yesterday during qualifying. I should have been on the front row and, if so, I would have tried to make Sebastian work a bit harder in the first stint when I was behind Rubens. I saved a lot of fuel in the first stint, which meant we were able to jump Rubens at the first pit stop. I don't think I could have done much more today, and congratulations to Sebastian, he did a good first stint, which is what laid the foundations for his win."
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner called the effort by his drivers "completely seamless" and "a dream result." Red Bull designer Adrian Newey, who journeyed to the podium to collect the constructors trophy, said the 3.194-mile Silverstone course with its fast-flowing corners was ideal for the RB5.
Barrichello finished 41 seconds off the winner's pace. Close behind him came Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Williams F1's Nico Rosberg, within a second of one another. Drivers' championship leader Jenson Button was another second back in sixth, ending up where he started. Farther along was Jarno Trulli for Toyota and Kimi Raikkonen for Ferrari, who took the final points.
Timo Glock, ninth for Toyota, was followed by Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella, fifth-starting Kazuki Nakajima for Williams F1, Nelson Piquet for Renault, Robert Kubica for BMW Sauber, Fernando Alonso for Renault, last year's runner-up Nick Heidfeld for BMW Sauber, World Champion Lewis Hamilton for McLaren Mercedes, Adrian Sutil for Force India, and Sebastien Buemi for Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Sunny but cool conditions meant Vettel won in the dry for a change; his victories at Monza last year and at Shanghai this spring were rainy affairs. Conditions also meant Button couldn't get sufficient heat into his tires to help his cause. Vettel pronounced his tires quite workable, thank you.
"We knew that if track temperatures didn't increase then it would be incredibly difficult to beat the Red Bulls," Barrichello said. "I had a good start to maintain second but Sebastian then disappeared in front of me and we knew that we were competing for third.
"Still, to come away with third and the best position the team could have achieved this weekend is very satisfying, and I'm happy to have taken some points out of Jenson's lead."
Understated Button, national hope for a home victory at Silverstone -- home to the British Racing Drivers Club, "It's been a very frustrating home grand prix for us."
Both Ferraris showed in points for only the second time this season. They finished third and fourth at Monaco.
Fisichella reached fourth place as first pit stops rolled around. The Italian's 10th was his second-best finish of the season; he finished ninth at Monaco and was 11th in Australia. "A top-10 finish was our target this weekend," he said. His teammate, Sutil, started from the pit lane after his heavy accident in qualifying caused by brake failure.
Rosberg recorded a second successive fifth place and put Williams F1 into the "top half" of constructors' points. Teammate Nakajima said he was held up in the early laps but after his first pit stop he couldn't keep up. The second-generation F1 driver has yet to score this season.
Both Toyotas slid a bit backward to start, which affected both drivers. Trulli said he had trouble finding grip and questioned the setup he chose. Glock said he lost places at the first corner, falling into the clutches of traffic thereafter.
Piquet finished ahead of his double world champion teammate Alonso for the first time this season. "The overall result is disappointing but I think I had a solid race," he said.
Alonso and Hamilton staged some of the most spirited sparring, each running off course a number of times as they struggled for grip and, in Hamilton's case, downforce.
"Our chance to score points today was over at the start as we lost two positions and I was stuck behind Heidfeld who was heavy on fuel, which cost us a lot of time," 10th-starting Alonso said. "Although I had some good fights around the track, I'm obviously frustrated with the poor result and it's clear we need to improve on all fronts before Germany."
Hamilton also battled with his buddy Sutil, who was on a one-stop strategy.
"I was absolutely on the limit for the whole race," Hamilton said. "I gave it my all today."
BMW Sauber runners Kubica and Heidfeld had another dismal outing. Even throwing off the weight of kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS) did little to quicken the F1.09s. A strategy of loading up on fuel didn't work, either.
"We decided to take a risk and start the race on a high fuel load and on the prime tires," Kubica said. "But it didn't pay off because I had a hard time heating up the tires at the start and I lost ground."
The race appeared on course for a full-field finish until Lap 35, when McLaren No. 2 Heikki Kovalainen exited the pits in front of Hamilton. The Finn, who had gone from 13th to 19th at the start, let his teammate pass then shifted around the track as Toto Rosso's Sebastien Bourdais looked to take advantage of Kovalainen being off line. The two connected and both wound up retiring.
"Of course, it's disappointing not to finish the team's home race," Kovalainen said. "Bourdais just ran into the back of me."
Bourdais countered that Kovalainen changed line twice. "I was on the normal line and he went to the inside. I moved to the outside then he moved over, so I moved across to the other side and he changed again."
Some observers wondered if Kovalainen might draw a drive-through penalty for his movements. He did not.
Mercedes-Benz Motorsport vice president Norbert Haug put it more succinctly: "A race to forget." This despite Mercedes providing the engines for Brawn GP as well as Force India.
Vettel's victory, his second this season and third career, breathes new life into a driving championship heretofore dominated by Button, winner of six of the first seven races. Button, whose sixth qualifying spot was his worst of the season, finished sixth. The Englishman failed to appear on the podium for the first time all year.. Button leads all drivers with 64 points. Barrichello moves to 41 points as Vettel closes in with 39. Webber gains to 35.5 points ahead of Trulli (21.5). Massa holds 16, Rosberg 15.5, Glock 13, Alonso 11 and Raikkonen 10.
Brawn GP, who learned this weekend they stand to lose Virgin sponsorship next season because of their success this season, pad their constructors' championship accumulation to 105 points. Red Bull holds 74.5 and Toyota 34.5. Ferrari is up to 26 points, Williams F1 15.5, McLaren 13, Renault 11, BMW Sauber eight and Toro Rosso five. Force India has yet to score. Half-points were awarded in Malaysia when the race was called on account of darkness before it reached full-points distance.
The circus next stops in Germany in three weeks.