Photo: Red Bull/Getty Images
It was a sloppy weekend at Silverstone, site of the 2012 British Grand Prix. Friday practice was wet. Rain also interrupted qualifying, but after more than 3 hr a starting grid was established featuring Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) at P1, Mark Webber (Red Bull) at P2, and Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) continuing his resurgence at P3. Other qualifying notables included Pastor Maldonado (Williams) at P7, Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) at P9, and Jenson Button (McLaren) failing to get out of Q3 at P18. Peter Windsor reported via @PeterDWindsor that Webber felt Ferrari would have been very quick even had it been dry on Saturday.
The Top 3 highlighted some interesting patterns of the 2012 season. Ferrari, and Alonso in particular, look very good indeed after a lackluster off-season and testing performance. Alonso’s the only man with 2 wins this year, and now he’s on the pole again, with Felipe Massa slotting in at P5. Webber continues to keep pace with teammate (and two-time defending champion) Sebastian Vettel. And Schumi’s powers continue to grow at nearly every event.
As the grid was forming, Michael took a moment to chat with Bono and Ross Brawn. The weather was great. A dry start was expected, with rain possible towards the middle of the race, making tire choice a keen point of interest. Vitaly Petrov (Caterham) did not start the event due to a technical failure. Alonso and Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) came to the grid on hard tires. Teams were allowed to choose their starting compound of choice given the anticipated rain.
Alonso and Webber nearly came together at the race start. Schumacher held onto P3. Both Button and Bruno Senna (Sauber) had good starts. Paul di Resta (Force India) went off course with a puncture. Tire debris was on track, with Romain Grosjean (Lotus) pitting for a new nose after tangling with Button.
Massa (Ferrari) began to pressure Schumacher, with Vettel in turn putting the heat on Massa. di Resta dropped out of the race with suspension damage. On Lap 5 the running order was Alonso, Webber, Schumacher, Massa, Vettel, and Maldonado. Grosjean was turning fastest laps near the back of the field following the nose stop.
Massa passed Schumacher. Perez and Maldonado spun on Lap 12. Contact between the two, initiated by Maldonado, stranded Perez on track and gave Maldonado a puncture. Webber pitted with Alonso and Hamilton still out on hard tires. Alonso came in from the lead the next time past. Went back out on prime.
By Lap 22 Hamilton had worked himself up to P2, but pitted and come out in P7, leaving the Top 5 as Alonso, Webber, Vettel, Massa, and Schumacher. Schumi was clearly off the pace, however, as both Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) and Hamilton passed him 2 laps later.
Hamilton abruptly returned to the pits on Lap 29 to remove the soft tires applied just 7 laps earlier in favor of the hard primes. He fell to P12 in the process, with Raikkonen edging into the Top 5, but worked himself back to P9 just 3 laps later.
On Lap 36 first Webber and then Massa pitted form P2, each coming out in P4 with Alonso still out front. By Lap 42 (of 52) the running order stood as Alonso, Webber, Vettel, Massa, and Raikkonen.
And so it remained, but with something interesting happening up front: Alonso’s lead over Webber was shrinking. It fell to under 1 sec by Lap 45 and to less than half a second one lap later. And on Lap 48, Webber made his move taking P1 and holding it to the finish, placing him with Alonso as the only two-time winners this year.
Both Lotus cars were charging hard all the way to the end as well, Raikkonen setting fast lap on 51 and Grosjean moving from the very back of the field following his early wing replacement to finish P6. Button also acquitted himself well, finishing in the points at P10. Even so, McLaren tumbled from second to fourth in the constructor standings, swapping places with Ferrari.
Maldonado was fined and reprimanded for his collision with Senna, and Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) was fined for colliding with three of his pit crew.
Driver standings - Top 10
129 - Fernando Alonso (Spain) - Ferrari
116 - Mark Webber (Australia) - RBR-Renault
100 - Sebastian Vettel (Germany) - RBR-Renault
92 - Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
83 – Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) – Lotus-Renault
75 - Nico Rosberg (Germany) – Mercedes
61 – Romain Grosjean (France) – Lotus-Renault
50 - Jenson Button (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
39 – Sergio Perez (Mexico) – Sauber-Ferrari
29 – Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) – Williams-Renault
Constructor standings - Teams scoring points
216 - RBR-Renault - Vettel, Webber
152 - Ferrari - Alonso, Felipe Massa
144 – Lotus-Renault – Raikkonen, Grosjean
142 - McLaren-Mercedes - Hamilton, Button
98 - Mercedes - Rosberg, Michael Schumacher
60 - Sauber-Ferrari – Perez, Kamui Kobayashi
47 - Williams-Renault – Maldonado, Bruno Senna
44 – Force India-Mercedes – Paul di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg
6 – STR-Ferrari – Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne
Next event: Grosser Preis Santander von Deutschland - Hockenheimring – July 20-22, 2012