Silverstone GPR Race Recap: Webber for the win, Alonso & Vettel podium in dry British GP

Mark Webber won the 2012 British Grand Prix, leading Fernando Alonso across the line at Silverstone after a late race fight between them over the lead. Sebastian Vettel finished third. After a dreary and rainy weekend, the race ran entirely in the dry, and mostly under a shining sun, starting off as Alonso slipped over directly in front of Webber on the start. There were few incidents and most of the drama came from tyre management and pit stops. Alonso and Hamilton had a scrap as McLaren looked to cover a top ten for Hamilton, while Alonso was pushing through for the win. Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez came together while fighting, with the Mexican rather disgruntled with the Venezuelan’s driving abilities. Kamui Kobayashi also had an incident, but his was in missing his pit box and running into some of his crew members. Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top five while both McLaren drivers finished in the points.

Alonso (1:51.746) won pole during the rain-soaked and -paused qualifying session on Saturday, holding off Webber in the seconds after the Q3 checkered flag fell. Rain had been the major force to be reckoned with all weekend, slowing the running on Friday and causing a red flag with just six minutes remaining in Q2 on Saturday. Only the Saturday morning practice saw dry running for the weekend, while traffic jammed on the circuit and off, and track organizers went so far as to request fans stay away Saturday. Grosjean (1:56.552) topped the morning session on Friday, leading Ricciardo, Hamilton, Perez, and Massa. That afternoon, Hamilton (1:56.345) took charge over Kobayashi, Schumacher, Rosberg, and Perez. The afternoon session saw most drivers off the track at one point or another in the heavy rain, as limited tyres also kept them tucked away dry in the garage. Saturday morning may have been dry, but a red flag caused that session’s lack of running, as Pic suffered electrical issues in his Sauber. Alonso (1:32.167) led at the end of the hour over Button, Grosjean, Vettel, and Raikkonen.

Saturday remained the Spaniard’s day, as he won pole even after narrowly missing a knockout in Q2 after no time set before the red flag for dangerous conditions. Schumacher and Vettel completed row two on the starting grid for the race, as Massa and Raikkonen rounded out row three.  Hamilton managed only to qualify eighth fastest, starting just next to Maldonado, while teammate and fellow Briton Button got caught out by conditions and yellow flags and managed only to qualify eighteenth.

Race Start:
Minutes before the race start word came from Caterham that, “Engine failure ends Vitaly’s race before it’s started. Such a shame as he was very positive about today’s race.” He suffered a fuel problem. As for the weather, the morning started overcast and cool, but bloomed into striking sunshine before the race began. The Red Bulls, Williamses, Lotuses, Massa, Schumacher, Di Resta, Perez, Vergne, Kovalainen, and Pic all started on the soft compound, while in the top ten, only Alonso and Hamilton were on the harder compound. When the lights went out, Alonso went straight across to get ahead of Webber, nearly bumping into him. They held station, but further back Raikkonen and Vettel tangled as the German passed the Finn. Di Resta spun out after some contact with Raikkonen as the Finn struggled with Massa, and possibly with teammate Hulkenberg, and suffered a puncture on his right rear. He attempted to regain the pits.

Button moved up to twelfth from sixteenth. At the end of L1, Alonso led Webber by just over a half second, with Schumacher, Massa, Vettel, Maldonado, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Senna, and Perez the top ten. Button was in the middle of al almighty scrap for twelfth, dropping down to thirteenth as Grosjean went on the grass and then wiggled ahead of the Briton. Di Resta finally pitted, leaving a bit of rubber on the track off the racing line. Grosjean also pitted, on L3. Meanwhile, Massa looked ready to challenge his former Ferrari teammate for third. Just a couple laps in, the top eight were covered by barely more than five seconds. As Massa looked for a way around Schumacher, Vettel looked for his own way around Massa to the outside. The Brazilian held him off. Di Resta became the first retirement, on his second stop, as too much damage from his early off ended his race.

As Alonso held his lead around a second, Webber had clear track behind him while Schumacher seemed to be slightly holding up Massa and Vettel. On the radio, Hamilton insisted that he had “no pace” and couldn’t keep up with the drivers around him, down in eighth. Meanwhile, some extra information on overtaking rules, Charlie Whiting had earlier informed reporters that, when overtaking, if the rear car’s front wing was even with the lead car’s rear wheel, that would be deemed the advantage in overtaking, and the advantage in investigated incidents. That might soon be tested, with Massa continually pushing Schumacher, attempting to move into fourth and get around the slower Mercedes. In continuation of Hamilton’s woes, McLaren told him that he was keeping pace with Alonso, the only other driver in the top ten on the harder tyre and that his pace was good. Alas, Alonso was consistently lapping more than a half second quicker than his former teammate. Hamilton’s unhappiness continued, even as he caught up Maldonado and had a look, as Perez looked rather racy to his rear and ready to pounce for eighth at any time.

End L10/Pit Stops Begin:
As L10 ended, Vettel pitted from third for a set of the harder compound. Alonso still led Webber, as pit stops were about to shake up the order. Maldonado and Perez followed him in on L12, even as Massa pushed through on Schumacher. The German pitted on the next lap. Just before, Perez and Maldonado came together as Perez went for the position on the outside at Brooklands. There had been enough room, but Maldonado lost the rear a bit on the way through the corner and bumped into the Mexican driver, causing both to spin. That ended Perez’s race immediately and forced Maldonado to the pits. Race Direction disabled DRS for a lap or two, as Perez sat at the end of the zone, but soon returned to allowing DRS. The incident would come under investigation by the stewards after the race. Meanwhile, Massa and Raikkonen pitted for the harder tyres. Webber pitted on L15, as did Senna and Vergne. Vettel, meanwhile, had gotten around Massa and Rosberg as pit stops and tyres shook up the order. Leader Alonso pitted on L16. Button and Vettel had a scrap, as Vettel went through on the Briton on fresher tyres. Massa became the next man to pass Button, who would pit on L17, as did Kobayashi, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, and Karthikeyan. That left only Hamilton, Glock, and de la Rosa who had yet to pit.

Hamilton led, having not stopped, at the end of L17, over Alonso, Webber, Vettel, Massa, Schumacher, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Kobayashi, and Hulkenberg. Button and Rosberg continued to fight over twelfth and were the closest men on the circuit. McLaren reminded Hamilton to keep cool and not worry about Alonso (just a couple tenths behind), as the plan was going well. Alonso was very close behind, pushing Hamilton hard to retake the lead. After a try to the outside, inside, and outside again, Alonso took the lead, then lost it to Hamilton, then retook it as Hamilton went into the turn a bit hot and kept it for good. Alonso immediately pulled out a gap of more than a second on Hamilton. Glock pitted, leaving just Hamilton and de la Rosa without fresh rubber. McLaren took care of that, pitting on L21. McLaren managed a clean stop that lasted 2.8s, putting on a set of the softer tyres. He dropped to seventh, a half second behind Raikkonen.

Halfway (End L26):
Everyone seemed relatively settled as halfway approached, but for Raikkonen, who made his way around Schumacher in the DRS zone. Hamilton did the same a few corners later, as Raikkonen immediately posted the race fast lap. At halfway, Alonso led Webber by five and a half seconds, over Vettel, Massa, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Grosjean, Schumacher, Kobayashi, Hulkenberg, Senna, Button, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Vergne, Kovalainen, Glock, de la Rosa, Pic, and Karthikeyan. Grosjean pitted for the second time as L26 ended. de la Rosa still had not stopped.

Second Pit Stops Begin (L28):
Hamilton pitted for the hard tyres on L29, as de la Rosa finally made his own first stop. On the radio, Hamilton heard that he was “doing a great job,” but that they did not want to stop again. Ricciardo made his own second stop on L30, with Kovalainen following him in to the pit lane. Hamilton moved up to eleventh around Rosberg, as Grosjean followed him through in a daring and faithful maneuver. Senna pitted on L31. Hamilton, with Grosjean close behind, slid through on Button. Grosjean also followed him through, though Button gave him a bit more of a fight than he did his own teammate. Meanwhile, Vettel pitted on L32. Button did so as well. They rejoined in fifth and fourteenth, respectively, both on the harder tyre.

With twenty laps remaining, the order was a bit mixed up, with some drivers completing their second regulation tyre compound stop and other not yet having done so. Alonso, Webber, Massa, and Raikkonen led without having stopped. Meanwhile, Hamilton complained that “we shouldn’t have covered Grosjean on that stop. He’s much faster than I am.” Webber pitted on L34 from second, dropping behind Raikkonen and ahead of Vettel on the stop. Though the sun shone brightly for the start, by this point in the race the sky had darkened considerably, and those geographically near but not at Silverstone began reporting rain. Raikkonen and Schumacher pitted next, on L35. Alonso and Massa had a Ferrari 1-2, neither having stopped for the second time. Alonso still had to switch to the softer tyre, but had nearly fourteen seconds gap on his teammate. Massa pitted on L36, as did Hulkenberg.

Meanwhile, Grosjean took ninth from Hamilton, as the Briton predicted he would. Webber set a new race fast lap on L36, with just under twenty seconds to Alonso ahead in the lead. Alonso responded, pitting for the soft tyres on L38. Ferrari delivered a very quick stop, keeping the championship leader in the lead of the race with fifteen laps remaining. Kobayashi and Rosberg also pitted on that lap. Kobayashi had a terrible stop, coming into the box too far to the right and running into his right front tyre changers. They seemed to simply have been knocked over, as nearly was the front jack man, but word soon came that one of the crew might have been injured, though with nothing broken. The incident would be investigated after the race. Rosberg also had issues in the pit lane, but only with a slow stop and no fallen pit crew.

10 Laps Remaining:
Alonso had just 3.3s over Webber with ten laps to go, while Webber had a clear five and a half over teammate Vettel. Massa, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Hamilton, Schumacher, Hulkenberg, and Senna rounded out the top ten at that point, though Button was pushing Senna hard for that final championship point. On the next lap, Webber gained a full second on Alonso, and another second on the next one. Further back, Button made a daring move on Senna, but it did not stick and he had to remain in eleventh. The gap was down to a half second with seven laps to go, as the championship leaders began to battle for the race win. On their first time through the DRS zone, Alonso also had an HRT ahead, leaving both to open their wings.

The gap seemed maintained at around a half second across the line but much closer through the corners. With five to go, Webber was extraordinarily close, and weaving in an attempt to take any maneuver possible. Further back, Schumacher took seventh from Hamilton, but Webber remained unable to do anything about Alonso ahead. Webber took a look, poking next to Alonso, then slid into the lead on the outside after the DRS zone. Alonso did not give up, attempting to nose back under, but remained behind. The Australian soon pulled out a clear gap as Alonso’s tyres seemed to be going off. Vettel remained four seconds behind Alonso and only about a tenth quicker per lap.

Further back, Raikkonen pushed Massa very hard for fourth, only to run off the track. Also, Senna took Hulkenberg, only to have the German fight back and lose position to Button and Kobayashi by running wide off the track. In the end, Webber managed his race beautifully for the win, over Alonso and Vettel on the podium. Massa held off Raikkonen across the line, even as they fought over the final few turns.

Final Positions, 2012 British Grand Prix:

1. Mark WebberRed Bull3.02
2. Fernando AlonsoFerrari4.582
3. Sebastian VettelRed Bull9.52
4. Felipe MassaFerrari10.32
5. Kimi RaikkonenLotus17.12
6. Romain GrosjeanLotus29.12
7. Michael SchumacherMercedes36.42
8. Lewis HamiltonMcLaren43.32
9. Bruno SennaWilliams44.42
10. Jenson ButtonMcLaren45.32
11. Kamui KobayashiSauber47.82
12. Nico HulkenbergForce India51.22
13. Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso53.32
14. Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso47.82
15. Nico RosbergMercedes51.22
16. Pastor MaldonadoWilliams57.32
17. Heikki KovalainenCaterham1 Lap2
18. Timo GlockMarussia1 Lap2
19. Charles PicMarussia1 Lap2
20. Pedro de la RosaHRT2 Laps1
21.Narain KarthikeyanHRT2 Laps2
 Sergio PerezSauber41 Laps1
 Paul Di RestaForce India50 Laps2
 Vitaly PetrovCaterhamdid not start
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