8 July 2012
Webber out-duels Alonso for Silverstone win
Mark Webber played the long game and kept his cool as Fernando Alonso disappeared into a dominant lead early in the British GP, confident that he would have his chance.
Fernando Alonso dominated the British Grand Prix - right up to four laps to the end, at which point Mark Webber was able to pounce on the fading Ferrari and snatch the lead away from Alonso to claim a famous victory, his second in the event and his second race win in 2012.
The only part of the wholly unpredictable British Grand Prix at Silverstone that had seemed a stone-cold sure thing going in was that the rain would have its say. A fully dry race was not on the cards after days of torrential rain and flooding in the area.
So of course, a fully dry race is precisely what we got, with the race starting under bright blue skies and hot sunshine. That changed everything as far as the teams were concerned, who now had to throw out everything that they thought they had learned on Friday and Saturday and instead start from scratch - including tyre strategies.
Since qualifying had been done on wets and intermediates, the teams got a free hand to choose which of the dry compounds they would start on. Fernando Alonso went for a first stint on the harder prime tyres, trusting in pole position to keep him ahead of Mark Webber who - like most of the cars up front - was going for the faster but much shorter-lived soft option tyres off the grid.
Alonso realised the danger this presented if he didn't keep the lead into the first corner, so he pulled off a vicious sweep to the left off the line as the lights went out in order to make sure that Webber didn't get a run on him. The Red Bull came within millimetres of losing its front wing and made everyone watching flinch with fright, but disaster was averted and the leaders got away cleanly through into Abbey.
Further back it was a brutal pub brawl for the first few laps, cars jostling each other in a no-holds-barred knife fight for every inch of track position that they could find. With the running order having been thoroughly mixed up by the rain-swept qualifying and with all the different tyre strategies in play, there were fights up and down the running order.
Sadly, Paul di Resta was the first casualty of the aggressive start as he was tapped from behind by Romain Grosjean and sent flying off the track with a puncture and damage to his suspension. The Force India team did what it could, but there was no way to effect repairs and di Resta was out of the race; Grosjean meanwhile had lost positions and had to come into pit lane for a new front wing, dumping him down to the back of the field and seemingly facing a long and frustrating afternoon's labours. At least both had made it further than Vitaly Petrov, whose Caterham had died on its way to the grid with engine failure half an hour before the race even started.
Once the race started to settle down, and with Alonso starting to creep away from Webber at the front, the main focus turned to the battle between their team mates - Felipe Massa was having to work overtime to fend off a feisty Sebastian Vettel, with the world champion coming close to taking the position through the Vale/Club complex at the end of lap 3. But Massa was in his best form of the year and stood up to the pressure, and Vettel fell back, leaving Massa to tangle with Michael Schumacher who was in third place in the Mercedes but seemingly grappling with DRS issues. That held everyone else up while releasing Alonso and Webber ahead. Massa finally struck on lap 11, passing Schumacher on the Hanger straight with an emphatic, no-defence-possible strong-arm move on the German.
While things were stable now at the front, there were battles elsewhere - many of them starring Grosjean, recovering from his first lap mishap by scything through back markers with considerable aplomb. Also battling hard were Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado, and the Mexican was getting very unhappy indeed with the Venezuelan's apparent blocking tactics and refusal to yield even when Perez got a nose alongside him. Finally tempers frayed altogether, and Perez' attempt to go around the outside of the Williams at Brooklands ended in contact with Maldonado sliding into the side of the Sauber and knocking him out of the race. While Perez was left fuming, Maldonado limped back to the pits and got repairs to enable him to continue, although he ended up a lap off the lead by the end.
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