Nico Rosberg was triumphant in the thrilling British Grand Prix at Silverstone last Sunday as he took full advantage of a series of strange circumstances to take his second victory of the season.
Qualifying had reinforced the belief that Mercedes now has F1’s fastest car as Lewis Hamilton rushed to pole position ahead of Rosberg, completing an all-Mercedes front row ahead of the Red Bull duo of World Champion Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. (The Australian had announced on Thursday that 2013 will be his last ever season in the sport and thus was eager to make an impact at his second unofficial home race.)
Off the line Hamilton launched his car into an early lead, while Rosberg lost out to the fast-starting Vettel. Webber initially got away in good shape, but seemed to bog down and rapidly fell down the order to 15th place after contact with Lotus’ Romain Grosjean.
Hamilton looked to have events under control but on lap 11 the Briton was passing through 160 mph on the Wellington Straight when the left-rear Pirelli tyre on his Silver Arrow exploded into a shower of rubber debris. Wallowing wildly, the 2008 World Champion struggled back to the pits for a replacement but lost ground, eventually re-joining in last place. Vettel now led, and continued to do so after a smooth second pit stop.
Things took a sinister turn for Pirelli and the teams, as first Felipe Massa and then Jean Eric Vergne also experienced high speed blowouts of the same left rear tyre that had compromised Hamilton. Eventually a safety car period was declared to allow track marshals to clear the debris from the circuit. At the green flag restart, Vettel caught his rivals napping and immediately began to distance himself from Rosberg, who was still in second place, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Adrian Sutil.
Just when it seemed the overtaking and racing had reached a crescendo, the crowd was treated to another unexpected turn of events: Vettel was coasting through the final corner and visibly losing speed. As Rosberg swept past to take the lead of the race, the German ground to a halt on the start/finish straight.
"No gears" was his simple message to the pit wall.
The safety car took to the circuit again as officials struggled to recover Vettel’s stricken Red Bull, and there were a mere seven laps remaining when racing got back underway for the final minutes of the Grand Prix. All eyes were now on Webber who, after an eventful race, had ensured he made a pit stop for fresh tyres under the Safety Car; he was now running sixth and poised to attack on his newer, faster rubber.
The Australian quickly dispatched Daniel Ricciardo and Adrian Sutil, before turning his attentions on the duelling Alonso and Raikkonen. The Spaniard battled his way past the ailing Lotus of the Finnish driver but soon succumbed to the unstoppable Webber, who then began to close on Rosberg.
With just 0.7 seconds to spare, the Mercedes driver crossed the line and seized his third career victory. Webber came tantalizingly close to recording a win in his last ever British Grand Prix, ahead of Alonso, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Massa, Sutil, Ricciardo, Di Resta and Hulkenberg. Jenson Button had been heading for sixth place in his home race until the worn tyres on his McLaren dropped him to 13th by the checkerd flag.
"The race was really exciting. I had to manage the tyres really carefully, I was told to avoid the kerbs. At the end, it was difficult to hold Mark and to look after my tyres but I was able to keep the position, and take a great victory for us."