A less than 'optimum' performance prevented Sebastian Vettel from winning the F1 2011 British Grand Prix today - although team orders did help ensure he took second.
Vettel dominated in the early stages and was looking well set to take yet another victory. However a slow second stop – when the rear jack failed – cost him around 11 seconds and when he rejoined he was down in third and stuck behind Lewis Hamilton. Although he eventually got the jump on the McLaren man, by successfully stopping early for the third and final time on lap 36 to get the undercut, by then he had already lost too much ground to Fernando Alonso.
He eventually finished more than 15 seconds adrift of the Ferrari, coming under considerable pressure near the finish from Mark Webber, at least until the Aussie was instructed to 'hold station'.
Despite 'only' finishing second though, Vettel still stretches his lead in the drivers' championship and he will now go to the Nurburgring in two weeks time with an 80-point cushion – the equivalent to more than three race victories.
“I had an excellent start and with hindsight I wouldn't have minded if there had been more rain because I really liked the conditions when we were racing on the intermediate tyres,” Vettel said post-race. “We seemed to be in very good shape and I was pulling away. We probably waited a little bit too long to go onto the dry tyres, but it was right as there was no need for us to take a risk and we were in control.
“At the [second] pit stop we had a problem – the car was already back on the floor, but then we had to lift it back up again. By then I had lost the lead and came out in third. I struggled to pass Lewis, I thought I could go much quicker, but I never really had the chance. Once I was very close, but it didn't work.
“We got him at the [final] pit stop, but by then Fernando was already gone. It was a good result for us [though], but we had some problems and, if you're not at your optimum, then there's always someone there to beat you. Ferrari was very quick all weekend and they deserved the victory today.”
Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner meanwhile defended the decision to enforce team orders, noting that it made 'absolute sense to consolidate a big haul of points'.
“After a very interesting race that initially started very well for us on the intermediate tyres, second and third is still a very strong result at this circuit, considering everything that has gone on this weekend,” Horner stated.
“Unfortunately we had a rear jack failure on Sebastian's second pit stop, which cost him a lot of time in the pits and dropped him behind Fernando. Having said that, Fernando was very fast today, but at least we would have had the track position going into the latter stint. Having run second early on, Mark had an issue at his second pit stop, but he managed to re-pass Hamilton with a brave move into Turn six. In the closing laps and with the two cars going wheel to wheel, from a team point of view it made absolute sense to consolidate a big haul of points today and not risk having both cars in the fence, which nearly happened to Lewis and Felipe [Massa] on the last corner.
“From a team point of view it's been a very strong day – we gained 33 points and both drivers are now first and second in the Drivers' Championship. On the exhaust issue, hopefully we have now achieved clarity on this and can draw a line under it going forward,” Horner concluded.