Fernando Alonso triumphed in a thrilling British Grand Prix.
The Ferrari driver scored his first win of the year after Red Bull made a mistake during Sebastian Vettel’s pit stop.
Vettel had taken the lead from second on the grid at the start. He passed Webber, who started from pole position, as the race began on a partly wet track.
The entire field opted to start the race on intermediates as the track was heavily wet for much of the lap but almost dry around the new pits.
Vettel led Webber, Alonso and Jenson Button, who passed Felipe Massa at the start. But Massa came back at Button on the second lap at Village to claim his place back.
Button then came under attack from his team mate. Lewis Hamilton had picked off Kamui Kobayashi, Nico Rosberg and Pastor Maldonado in quick succession at the start, followed by Paul di Resta.
On lap three he passed Button for fifth and set off in pursuit of Massa. But his chase was delayed when he took to the run-off at Brooklands.
Meanwhile Vettel was making his escape, pulling away from Webber at up to a second per lap.
Schumacher hits Kobayashi
Michael Schumacher had made a great start, picking up four places and challenging Kobayashi for eighth. But when Kobayashi ran wide at Brooklands Schumacher clipped the back of the Sauber, tipping him into a spin, and breaking the front wing on the Mercedes.
Schumacher had to replace the nose and was later summoned for a stop-go penalty – the stewards using them instead of the usual drive-throughs because Silverstone’s new pit lane carries such a small time penalty.
He took the opportunity to switch to soft tyres and his quick sectors times showed the other teams it was the way to go. Button was among the first to make the switch and he was instantly faster, having struggled somewhat on intermediates.
The cars in front followed suit, Hamilton jumping past Massa by pitting before him. The top three kept the same order, Vettel delaying his stop, not needing to take any risk as he’d built up an eight-second lead.
Hamilton versus Alonso
After the pit stops Hamilton was right on Alonso’s tail, the Ferrari driver struggling to get his tyres up to temperature. He dived down the inside at Copse and claimed third place.
But he couldn’t leave the Ferrari behind and just a few laps later, Alonso was close enough to use his DRS. With the wing open on the Wellington straight, he passed Hamilton in a straight line as they headed to the braking zone at Brooklands.
Hamilton pitted at the end of that lap, taking on a fresh set of soft tyres. Alonso was flying, lapping quicker on old tyres than Hamilton did on his first lap on a new set.
This round of pit stops proved decisive, as both Red Bull drivers lost time and came out behind Hamilton, promoting Alonso into the lead.
While Vettel tried for lap after lap to dislodge Hamilton from second, Alonso made good his escape, pulling out a ten-second lead over his pursuers.
Vettel takes back second
Vettel got as close as he could to Hamilton without passing him, almost pushing the McLaren down the straight towards Copse in his efforts to get past.
Eventually he changed tack and made for the pits for a third and final pit stop. This one was executed cleanly, and when Hamilton came in on the next lap Vettel was easily through into second.
McLaren believed they’d seen a opportunity to get Button ahead of Webber, and told him on the radio to pit to overtake the Red Bull. But the message was replayed on the worldwide broadcast and Red Bull lost no time in bringing Webber in. McLaren aborted Button’s pit stop and brought him in on the next lap.
He didn’t get much further than the pits. The mechanic on his front-right wheel failed to attach it properly, and it worked loose as he left. Button pulled over into retirement.
Fourth-placed Webber was now bearing down on Hamilton, who McLaren had urged to save fuel. Red Bull relayed that message to Webber as well, adding: “McLaren could be bluffing to get us to kill the tyres.”
They weren’t. Webber passed Hamilton easily in the DRS zone and the McLaren driver now had Massa’s Ferrari to worry about.
The battle between the two came down to the last lap as Massa tried to take him on the outside at Vale. The pair banged wheels and Hamilton cut back up the inside of the Ferrari at Club, snatching fourth place back as they sprinted for the line.
Red Bull call off the fight
This was exactly the kind of racing Red Bull did not want to see between their two drivers.
Webber had closed on Vettel at over a second per lap after passing Hamilton. With around four laps to go the team ordered him to hold position behind his team mate.
In the press conference after the race, Webber revealed he ignored the order. He raced Vettel firmly but fairly for the position and lost out by less than half a second.
Alonso, meanwhile, had romped off to an emphatic win. Far from catching the Ferrari after getting past Hamilton, Vettel had dropped back, and Alonso crossed the line over 16 seconds clear despite backing off at the end.
Nico Rosberg finished sixth, heading a trio of cars who all made two stops instead of the three preferred by the leaders.
He dropped back at the start but fought back, passing Maldonado and the Sergio Perez, the latter finishing five seconds behind the Mercedes.
Nick Heidfeld rebuffed a challenge from the recovering Schumacher to hold on to eighth place.
The final point went to Jaime Alguersuari, who had followed his team mate past Vitaly Petrov earlier in the race, only for Sebastien Buemi to drop out following contact with Paul di Resta.
Pit problem delays Di Resta
Di Resta had looked a dead cert for points until Force India made a mistake on his pit call, telling him to stay out when he was already in the pit lane. Adrian Sutil ended the race 11th in front of Petrov.
There were no points for either of the Williams drivers, Rubens Barrichello finishing 13th in front of Maldonado.
With neither Lotus finishing, Timo Glock took 16th for Virgin in front of his team mate. The HRTs of Vitantonio Liuzzi and Daniel Ricciardo were the last runners.
2011 British Grand Prix
Image © Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo