The pre-race script for the British Grand Prix
surely called for a dominant Red Bull
Racing 1-2, with polesitter Sebastian Vettel
at its head, but a rewrite was called for as early as lap one.
Angered by the team's decision to hand 'his' new front wing to Vettel for qualifying, Mark Webber
was fired up ahead of the 52-lap encounter on the revised Silverstone layout, but the team's line was that 'the drivers knew what they had to do'. Whether that included allowing the two pilots to battle for the lead may never be known but, despite Vettel's attempts to squeeze his Australian colleague up against the pitwall, Webber was not to be denied.
Nosing ahead into Copse, the RB6-sized hole allowed an opportunistic Lewis Hamilton
to similarly defy the 'dirty' side of the grid and stick the front of his McLaren
in alongside Vettel. In a reprise of their turn two contact in Valencia, the pair touched, but this time it was Vettel coming off worst, his right rear punctured and sending him careering off the road at Becketts.
By the time he had limped back to the pits, the German was last by a long way, and nearly in danger of being lapped by both his team-mate and his assailant, as Hamilton clung on to Webber's tail for the opening five laps.
Back in the pack, Hamilton's lightning start had been aided by a duff one for nemesis Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard dropping back to fifth once the melee had sorted itself out. He could have been worse off, too, as contact with none other than Ferrari
team-mate Felipe Massa
sent the Brazilian pitward with a puncture of his own.
The opening lap ended with Robert Kubica
also having taken advantage of Alonso's poor getaway, heading Nico Rosberg
in third and fourth, while Rubens Barrichello
led the pursuit of the Spaniard, ahead of Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button, up from a dismal 14th on the grid.
While Vettel had got his mandatory pit-stop out of the way, and was able to run to the end of the race on his harder Bridgestone tyres, he was initially unable to catch the rear of the train, and therefore seemed unlikely to be able to make up places while the rest of the field worked their various strategies.
Hamilton and Webber both managed to retain their positions as they pitted on lap 16 and 17 respectively, but the biggest gainer was, once again, the resilient Button who, having grabbed half a dozen spots off the line, made his soft rubber last longer than anyone in the cooler raceday temperatures.
The Briton waited four laps longer than the leader before finally peeling off into the Silverstone pits for what would be the last time in competition, vaulting Schumacher and Barrichello in the process. With Kubica having retired two laps prior to his stop, and Alonso due to serve a drive-thru' for cutting Vale corner in his battle with the Pole, Button would suddenly find himself in fourth.