Mark Webber’s making a habit of doubling up his grand prix victories. He’s won at Interlagos twice, he’s won on the streets of Monaco twice, and now he has a second victory at Silverstone to add to the collection. In 2010 he led from the first corner of Silverstone to the last; this year he stalked Alonso for most of the race, only taking the lead on lap 48 of the 52.
Alonso contested the place but didn’t resort to heroic measures: Webber had the faster car, both drivers knew it. For Alonso, second place still represented a points haul that keeps his grip tight on the lead of the Drivers’ Championship.
With the rain holding off, it wasn’t the race of dramatic extremes predicted. Instead what unfolded at the front was a highly strategic battle. Alonso started the race on the hard tyre, as did McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, the rest of the top 10 opted for the soft tyre.
Alonso made a good start and retained the lead while Webber hung on to second and Michael Schumacher kept third. Felipe Massa slipped past Sebastian Vettel into fourth. Alonso and Webber pulled away while Schumacher held up the field. The hard compound was plainly the better race tyre and Alonso used it to good effect in the opening exchanges, sprinting away to establish a lead of several seconds in the first stint.
'I am absolutely over the moon, absolutely rapt. For the team it’s a real good story' - Mark Webber
Behind the leaders Massa was swarming all over Schumacher while Vettel was being held up by both. The World Champion played his cards early and made a stop on lap 11. On the fresh, hard rubber Vettel put in a brace of quick laps and managed to steal both places when everything played out.
“Once I got close to Felipe but he did a very good job, he very hard but very fair and I enjoyed that a lot and then we did the right thing coming in a little bit earlier, using that momentum to get past both Michael and Felipe at the same time, which was good.”
Meanwhile at the front, Fernando ran his first two stints on the hard tyre and pulled out a lead of six seconds over Webber. The question was going to be how much could Alonso get out of the soft tyre and would it be enough to hold off a Red Bull that would undoubtedly be closing in the final stages?
Webber took his final stop before Alonso and, with newer (albeit used) hard tyres versus Alonso’s old rubber, began to close the gap. The Ferrari driver, haemorrhaging time, pitted for his mandatory set of soft tyres perhaps earlier than he would have liked. It maintained his lead on the track but Webber ate up the four second gap as the Ferrari began to struggle soon after the stop. Mark made a textbook pass with the DRS engaged down the Wellington straight, emerging in front out of the Brooklands corner and pulled out a little gap before settling in to enjoy the last few laps, waving to the crowd as he toured around the final few corners.
“It didn’t look like a spectacular race maybe between Fernando and I initially, but it was one,” said Mark. “There was a little strategy involved as well, pacing the stints on the tyres, working out if it’s going to be two or three stops and how the tyres would behave in the race. Fernando starting on a different tyre and I knew he would have to run a different compound towards the end of the race as we had got the harder [in the sense of more difficult] tyre out of the way at the start.”
“I thought in the first stint that Fernando was in very, very good shape to close the win out, but it came our way in the last stint and I am absolutely over the moon, absolutely rapt. For the team it’s a real good story. The fans here this weekend have put up with some horrendous weather but we’ve had a beautiful dry British Grand Prix. It was a very special victory.”
'I was wringing the neck out of the car' - Daniel Ricciardo
Alonso didn’t seem too upset; he emerges from Silverstone still leading the Championship, albeit by a reduced margin. “We lost seven points to Mark but we gained on the rest of the field, so a pretty good Sunday for us,” he said. “When Mark arrived I think he overtook very easily and there was nothing we can do. I’m happy with the second place.
"Now obviously, 10 minutes after the race there is a strange feeling of losing victory. But it’s the same 18 points you get if you are third and you overtake the guy in second on the last lap. I’m sure in one hour’s time I will appreciate it much more.”
At one stage it looked like Alonso’s second place might be under threat, as Vettel closed in rapidly – but having compromised his race with that early first stop he didn’t have the laps in his tyres that Webber did. “ I was just a little bit too far away to get Fernando at the end. I’m sure if the race had been a little bit longer then it would have been different but that’s how it is. We brought the right strategy which brought us back – but you always have a little more on the tyres at the end. So I’m very happy with third today."
Behind the top three Felipe Massa drove a strong race to fourth as Schumacher faded. The two Lotuses were fifth and sixth with Kimi Räikkönen outgunning Romain Grosjean after the Frenchman ran a compromised race having pitted with damage in the early exchanges. Schumacher held onto seventh though the Mercedes didn’t look very competitive today.
Lewis Hamilton was eighth for McLaren after failing to make any impression on the race despite leading out-of-sequence for a short while. Bruno Senna was ninth for Williams and Jenson Button took the final point in the second McLaren.
Elsewhere the Toro Rosso’s had a lacklustre day with Daniel Ricciardo finishing 13th and Jean-Eric Vergne recovering to 14th from the back of the grid after his Valencia penalty. “The best thing about this weekend is that I feel I learned a lot – but it’s not the sort of result that makes you particularly happy,” said JEV.
“My lap times were the maximum I could do as I was wringing the neck out of the car,” added Daniel.
'We lost seven points to Mark but we gained on the rest of the field, so a pretty good Sunday' - Fernando Alonso
Elsewhere, Paul di Resta took some damage in his Force India and was out of the race early, while Sergio Pérez and Pastor Maldonado had a collision which ruined promising races for both men. Pérez was incandescent and less than complimentary about Maldonado. “He’s a very stupid driver,” was one of the more polite comments made by a fuming Pérez who called on the FIA to ban his rival. They didn’t – but they did give the Venezuelan a €10,000 fine for being a very naughty boy.
But the sun was shining and Mark Webber was basking in its glow. He cut his deficit to Fernando Alonso in the Drivers’ Championship with the Spaniard now leading with 129 points to Webber’s 116. In the Constructors’ Championship Red Bull moved onto 216 points with Ferrari climbing into second on 152. McLaren’s disastrous weekend saw them relegated to fourth in the championship, behind Lotus. The circus moves on to Germany. Mark’s already won there once …