Webber had sealed his second pole position of the year on Saturday, but Red Bull Racing team-mate Vettel got the speedier start and moved into the lead.
Problems with a sticking rear wheel during Vettel’s second pitstop on lap 27 meant that Alonso, already showing superb pace, leapfrogged the world champion and current championship leader into first place, where he remained, to seal his first win for the Scuderia in 2011. “What a wonderful surprise!” said Alonso. “The Red Bull is still the strongest car, but the improvements we are introducing are working…”
In the race’s latter stages, Webber, hungry for more points to stay in touch with Vettel in the championship picture and having overhauled the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, was asked not to try to overtake the German for second place, something the down-to-earth Australian was characteristically honest about afterwards. “The team radioed me about four times, asking that I maintain the gap to Seb,” Webber commented, “but I wasn't happy with that because you should never give up in Formula One, so I continued to push.”
British fans with their hopes pinned on a home victory for one of the three Britons on the grid were left disappointed.
McLaren’s Jenson Button, 2009 world champion and second in this season’s F1 drivers’ standings going into the race, had never even been on the podium at Silverstone in 11 previous attempts – and this bad luck continued after a wheelnut was left off the front right wheel of the McLaren during a 39th-lap pitstop as he was given clearance to leave the pitbox, forcing him to retire.
'What a wonderful surprise!' – Fernando Alonso
Button’s team-mate Hamilton battled valiantly from 10th on the grid to third, only for brake and fuel load issues to scupper his podium chances, though typically aggressive driving – Hamilton joked this weekend that he had a “platinum card for the stewards” after his various run-ins with the authorities this season so far – meant he retained fourth from a determined Felipe Massa in the Ferrari by just 24 thousands of a second at the chequered flag as the 2008 world champion pushed Massa’s Ferrari towards the dirt on the very last corner to hold station.
Having secured sixth on the grid in only his ninth grand prix and on his home F1 debut, Paul Di Resta finished 15th after Force India, too, fluffed their lines from the pitwall and brought out puncture-stricken team-mate Adrian Sutil’s tyres as the Scot came in for his scheduled second pitstop.
Sébastien Buemi was in the wars, his Toro Rosso clashing with Di Resta, leading to a race-ending puncture. There was better news for STR team-mate Jaime Alguersuari (pictured, above), who followed up his eighth place in Valencia with 10th and another championship point at Silverstone.
There was a solid start for Hispania Racing debutant Daniel Ricciardo (pictured, left), who finished on his maiden outing for the team, albeit in last place. “Understanding the tyres, the pitstops and the strategy, it's really very complex and something I've never really done before, so in this respect I think it was a step forward,” he commented. “I was quite a bit off the other competitors, but I think that, as I learn, I will get a bit closer.”