“I think what makes it more special is that our factory is so close. We have such momentum going at the moment, progressing all the time” – were the words uttered by Nico Rosberg as he took his second victory of the 2013 season on Sunday. In a race marred by four major tyre failures, the Mercedes driver took advantage of issues hampering both his team-mate Lewis Hamilton and erstwhile race leader, compatriot and championship leader Sebastian Vettel. Mark Webber, in his final appearance at Silverstone as a Formula One driver finished an impressive second after a poor start, with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso taking the bottom step of the podium in third.
It would not have been Silverstone if it were not raining at some stage. Heavy overnight rain meant that Friday’s opening practice session was all but annulled. With no further rain forecast for the rest of the weekend, and teams not wishing to risk un-necessary damage, very little action was seen. Cars did come out eventually, though none doing any representative laptimes. It was Daniel Ricciardo who topped the timesheets from Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado in a miserable and ultimately useless opening foray.
As the track dried up in the afternoon, more cars made their way onto the circuit, much to the delight of the 80,000 fans. Starting on intermediates, drivers found their feet early on as a dry line was slowly appearing. However, it wasn’t long before somebody found the wall. In almost a carbon copy of team0mate Alonso’s crash last year, Felipe Massa lost the rear of his Ferrari on the exit of Stowe and hit the inside wall, taking the front nose and front right suspension off the car. No more incidents followed and it was Nico Rosberg who finished top from the Red Bull pairing of Webber and Vettel. Home heroes Paul di Resta, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Max Chilton finished the session 4th, 5th, 11th and 21st respectively.
Mercedes continued their strong pace in Practice 3 on Saturday morning with Rosberg once again shading Hamilton by just over a tenth of a second. The Red Bull’s again followed suite with Ricciardo showing impressive speed for the second consecutive day for Toro Rosso. It could not have come at a better time for the Australian as he looks to secure the vacant seat left at the sister team by Mark Webber.
No surprises were found in Q1 as the Marussia’s and Caterham’s brought up the rear. Charles Pic was the victor in this battle, outqualifying Jules Bianchi with Giedo van der Garde beating Max Chilton. Q2 saw both Mclarens miss out as each lacked outright pace, grip and downforce; their troubled season failing to show signs of recovery.
The final stage of qualifying saw Mercedes come to the fore, and not just the factory team. While both Hamilton and Rosberg impressively locked out the front row, it was Paul di Resta who really turned heads by having his best Saturday of the year by finishing 5th fastest. However, the Scot’s car was found to be underweight and was forced to start from the back of the grid.
From the front row, it was polesitter Hamilton who got the perfect start and with little to no wheelspin, he shot off into the lead. Team-mate Rosberg had a poor getaway off the dirty side of the grid and almost immediately lost second place to Vettel into turn one. Webber, having made good starts on the previous two races had a disastrous start. Bogging down off the line, he was swamped by Adrian Sutil in the Force India, Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Pérez. Pérez had made a good start and pulled alongside the Lotus of Romain Grosjean. Running three wide, Grosjean had nowhere to go and in avoiding potential contact with the Mclaren, hit the side of Webber’s car, forcing the Australian wide.
Felipe Massa was another one who made an impressive start, moving up from 11th on the grid to 5th by the end of lap 1. Constant jockeying for position meant that the order at the end of the first lap was quite different to that on the grid. Di Resta moved up from 22nd to be 17th and looked to move up the field.
Out at the front, things settled down, for the first 8 laps at least. Hamilton had pulled clear of Vettel after the first couple of laps and maintained his lead at around 2.5 seconds. Rosberg was closing back up on the German although never being close enough to make a pass. Lap 8 and Hamilton still lead, until suddenly his left rear tyre and with it, his victory chances blew out on the Wellington straight. It could not have happened at a worse area for the Brit, limping back almost a full lap to be serviced; but he could find consolation that he would not be the only one to suffer tyre woes. Rejoining plum last, he made use of his superior car to find back through the field, with the aid of two safety cars, to brilliantly finish 4th.
With Hamilton out of the way, it was Sebastian Vettel who took the lead, and he looked comfortable for the duration he was in the race. Excellent pit work from his mechanics meant he rejoined comfortably in the lead, although never pulling too far away that he could completely relax. Ten laps from the end though, the usually bullet proof Red Bull slowed and pulled out with a loss of drive; the German frantically pulling gears that just would not connect. Suddenly it was the man who stayed out of trouble Rosberg who took the lead and with it, the win his father failed to achieve.
Lap 10 and just two laps after Hamilton’s blow out, it was Massa’s turn, once more, to suffer thanks to Pirelli. His incident though was less spectacular but equally as concerning. Once more, limping back to the pits, Massa’s car has evident damage to the floor, hampering his race no end. It wouldn’t be the last though, as only four laps after Massa, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne suffered a high speed blow out at the end of the Hanger Straight. Brilliantly controlling the car as it squirmed, the track was littered with tyre debris; forcing a safety car intervention. A farcical turn of events saw three tyre failures in the first 15 laps. Late on in the race, a fourth would let go on the Mclaren of Sergio Pérez coming onto the Hanger Straight, his tyre exploding directly in front of Alonso.
While most of the field planned on making two stops, many were forced to come in for precautionary tyre changes to avoid suffering the same fate as Vergne, Massa and Hamilton. Pit strategy changed but remained the same and coupled with the safety car, gave some drivers a chance to recover from lost ground. Lotus drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean made up for lower grid positions to pull themselves up towards the middle of the top 10, although Grosjean would tail off near the end. Raikkonen however was running strongly and made a case for a top 3 finish. Whilst he ran third in the later stages, his worn tyres would not be able to last and was a sitting duck for Webber. He was typically stubborn in defending his position, brilliantly going side by side with the Red Bull into Copse and fighting all the way to Maggots; two real racers showing exactly how it is done. Raikkonen would eventually finish 5th after losing out to Alonso and Hamilton.
Alonso started 10th, his worst grid position of the year. From the start he made good enough progress, avoiding contact and making crucial overtaking manoeuvres. He fought his way past di Resta early on before working his way by Grosjean and the Mclarens of Pérez and Button. The wiley Spaniard worked his tyres effectively and managed to make even more progress in the later stages, getting past Ricciardo and Sutil after the final safety car before storming past Raikkonen two laps from the end to finish 3rd.
Webber did an exceptional job to recover from his first lap mishap where he dropped down to 8th place. Overtaking the Mclarens, he got himself up as high as 6th before Vettel’s retirement/safety car. On the restart he too got past Ricciardo and Sutil, with race long battle foe Alonso still on his heals. Second place was a fine reward for one of Silverstone’s favourite non British sons, and a fitting final F1 race at the home of British motorsport.
Rosberg was himself very lucky on two fronts. Not only did he benefit greatly from the retirement of Vettel, gifting him the win, he also narrowly avoided going out of the race too. Pitting the lap after the Red Bull halted, his team had noticed his left rear tyre was on the cusp of delaminating too. A lap or two more, or the lack of safety car may have resulted in a different victor. He hung on though to take the win from Webber and Alonso. Hamilton did well to recover to fourth from Raikkonen, Massa, Sutil, Ricciardo, di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg.