Webber leads Alonso to the British GP finish - Red Bull Racing photoEnlarge Photo
This anomaly in the United Kingdom meant that no one--from Ferrari polesitter Fernando Alonso to Pastor Maldonado at the rear--had any idea of what to expect from their Pirelli tires in this race.
After all, practice and qualifying had been held under extremely wet conditions.
Teams caught by surprisingly good weather
As always, whatever setup a team runs in qualifying is what it's relegated to race.
Mark Webber, like Red Bull Racing teammate Sebastian Vettel had the photos of contributors to the Red Bull "Wings for Life" foundation throughout his car. All those people must have been wishing the Aussie forward as he hounded Alonso throughout the contest, particularly in the closing stages of the race.
While pole man Alonso had gone to soft tires for the final stint, Webber used the harder Pirelli rubber to his advantage, trimming the Ferrari's lead until the 48th of 52 laps, when he used DRS to sweep around the outside and take the lead--and the win.
"It's taking a while to sink in this one," an elated Webber mused. "I think it was the circumstances of the race--for most of it I was marking off second place. Fernando was not quite out of touch and after the last stop, my engineer Ciaron came on the radio saying that Fernando was not doing much on the option tires. It was completely game on when I knew the DRS was available and I made the move stick. Our hard work paid off for the win. It was a cracking grand prix today; the spectators got to see a good race and I'm pleased for them."
Webber took his first 2012 victory on the streets of Monaco in May.
For Alonso, the result gave him pause to reflect: "When you do almost the entire race in the lead and you are overtaken just a few laps from the finish, it does leave something of a bitter taste in the mouth, but after reflecting for a moment and looking at the classification," the two-time champion said, "then the outcome of this Grand Prix seems very positive." He has four podiums in the last five races and missed the fifth by a few laps at the end. "This is a nice run of results which has allowed me to lead the championship."
Where Alonso at one time had a more than five-second lead, he wound up second, three seconds back and would hold off Webber's teammate Vettel, with the second Red Bull taking the final podium spot, nearly five seconds in arrears. The reigning F1 champion found it "a tough day today. The start was not so good--I lost a little bit and then got stuck behind Michael (Schumacher), but had a good strategy to come back. We decided to pit early and we came out ahead, so that was a good call. I would be a bit happier if we had won today, but it was a great result for the team."
Felipe Massa drove a studied race in the second Ferrari to take fourth over a charging Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus, while the second Lotus of Romain Grosjean earned sixth, Michael Schumacher's Mercedes was seventh, Lewis Hamilton struggled to eighth, with Bruno Senna's Williams and Jenson Button's McLaren completing the points-paying positions.
Two drivers fined
One major incident in the race involved Williams' Pastor Maldonado--again--as he battled with Sergio Perez' Sauber and collided with the Mexican after their first pit stops. Perez, furious at the Venezuelan was out on the spot while Maldonado dragged his car back to the pits for repairs, eventually finishing 16th and one lap down from the leaders. Making matters worse for Sauber, Kamui Kobayashi hit quite a few mechanics at his last pit stop when he mis-braked the car and overshot the pit box; no one was seriously hurt and the Japanese driver finished 11th.
The stewards said they would investigate the Maldonado-Perez incident and after the race, Maldonado was adjudged to have caused the collision with Perez; due to the seriousness of the incident he received a double penalty in the form of a reprimand from the stewards and a 25,000 euro fine. Kobayashi, too, received the wrath of the race stewards for overshooting his pit box and was fined 10,000 euros for "a very dangerous maneuver which had potential serious implications."
With his victory, Webber trimmed Alonso's lead slightly but the Spaniard has a 129-116 gap on his rival. Vettel lies third with 100 points, while Hamilton (92) and Raikkonen (83) remain within striking distance. In the Constructors' battle, Red Bull Racing has a gaping 216-point advantage over Ferrari (152), with Lotus-Renault third at 144 points, McLaren fourth with 142 and Mercedes-AMG in the double digits in fifth place with 98 points.
Next stop on the F1 calendar is the 2012 German Grand Prix, which starts in less than two weeks.