Today’s British Grand Prix showed Mark Webber doesn’t need Red Bull to give him wings- he can fly all by himself. The Aussie overcame a far from than ideal weekend to seal his third victory of 2010- and one that suggests his team should think about providing equal treatment to both their drivers.
Webber got a better start than poleman Sebastian Vettel, and squeezed his teammate wide in to turn one. A few corners later Sebastian was off again, his right-rear tyre punctured- more likely by a tap from Hamilton than his trip over the astroturf. Meanwhile third-place starter Alonso had made a bad start, allowing several cars to swamp him in to turn one, before coming together with teammate Massa. The Spaniard was unaffected, but by the end of lap one both Felipe and Vettel were in the pits.
This left Webber out front, followed by Hamilton, Rosberg, Kubica and Alonso. Meanwhile Jenson Button had enjoyed a great first lap, moving from 14th on the grid to 8th as the cars began lap two.
As the race settled down Webber began to edge away from Hamilton, never dropping him fully but not looking under any real pressure either. In fact Hamilton was doing well to hang on to the Red Bull, but it was clear that Mark had pace in his pocket, and even on lap one we got the feeling this one was going to be Webber’s.
The best battle on track at this point was between Kubica, Rosberg and Alonso, with the Ferrari looking quicker but unable to make a pass. Fernando pitted first, quickly followed by Kubica, but Rosberg remained on-track, where he reeled off some quick laps. When he made his stop he’d leapfrogged Kubica, with Alonso behind the Pole.
Then came the move that wrecked the Spaniard’s day, as he took to the grass to pass Kubica. The Ferrari didn’t allow the Renault back past, and would be given a drive through penalty for his actions.Kubica himself had retired with a differential problem. By that time the safety car was out to allow marshals to clear remnants of Pedro de la Rosa’s rear-wing, which were scattered across Hanger straight. When Alonso did make his drive through the field was bunched up, and he dropped right down the order and out of contention.
When the safety car pulled in Webber and Hamilton took off at the front, with Rosberg, Button and Barichello separated from them by a gaggle of backmarkers. That allowed the front two to scamper off, though in reality they were in a class of their own today anyway. Webber was able to drop Hamilton to a comfortable distance and maintain the gap, and whilst Lewis made inroads now and again Webber clearly had everything he needed to hold on to the lead.
The recovering Vettel meanwhile was making strides through the field, passing countrymen Hulkenberg and Schumacher. Next up was another German, Force India’s Adrian Sutil. Adrian was in no mood to make this an easy one, and frustrated Vettel until the final, when the Red Bull snuck up the inside and grabbed 7th place. Sutil had defended valiantly, but the ultimately the Red Bull’s pace showed.
Out front things had been stable for a while, as Webber maintained a 5 second lead over Hamilton, and Rosberg held off Button for third. Webber came home to win comfortably, with Hamilton and Rosberg completing the top three. Button’s fourth was a great result considering his qualifying woes, whilst 5th and 6th went to Barichello and Kamui Kobayashi. Kobayashi had a quiet but absolutely fantastic run to 6th, ensuring more valuable points for the Sauber team. The promise he showed towards the end of last year has turned in to positive results over the past few races. The German quintet of Vettel, Sutil, Schumacher and Hulkenberg completed the point scoring finishers.
So a great day for Red Bull’s self-confessed number two driver, and not a bad one at all for McLaren- they’ll be delighted to have taken a good haul of points at a track that was always going to favour Red Bull. Vettel’s recovery could be key as the season reaches its conclusion, whilst Williams and Sauber both enjoyed their best day of 2010 and Nico Rosberg once again humbled teammate Michael Schumacher. But for Ferrari it was a disaster- no points for either driver and both now slipping well back from championship leader Hamilton.
So Hamilton now leads the standings by 12 points from teammate Button. Then it’s a 5 point gap to Webber, with Vettel 7 behind him. Fernando Alonso is now a distant 5th, 47 points off the lead.
Webber now stands alone on 3 race victories, and will head to the German Grand Prix two weeks from now brimming with confidence. It’s Vettel’s home race, so he too will be itching to impress, whilst the McLaren boys will be going flat out to hold on to their championship leads. This season is looking very tasty indeed.