Again, the pair opted for different tyres, with Vettel, who stopped first, taking on another set of mediums and Webber responding with more of the orange-banded hards. The German's earlier stop appeared to have paid dividends as he homed in on the pit exit just as Webber approached from the other side of the wall. The Australian just held the advantage into turn one, and gave a squirt on the throttle to ensure that he remained in front through two, but Vettel had made his intent clear, despite being warned to 'be careful' by the RBR hierarchy.
That comment was followed by another warning the German that 'this is silly' as Vettel dived to the inside of Webber heading down the main straight on the next lap and went wheel-to-wheel with his team-mate through turns one, two and three. He eventually emerged ahead at turn four, getting the bird from Webber as the Australian realised that he was going to lose a win he clearly felt had been his for some time.
Once in front, Vettel was able to ease away, eventually taking the flag by a little over four seconds, but it was clear that he had erred, with the team tempering its congratulations by warning him that he has 'some explaining to do'.
Behind the top two, a similar battle was brewing between Hamilton and Rosberg, with the German being the one to claim that he was being held up by his team-mate. After a brief spell swapping places in the back-to-back DRS zones, Hamilton remained in front, with every Rosberg request to be allowed to take third place denied by the Mercedes pit-wall, which explained that the Briton was running to order as the team attempted to monitor its fuel consumption.
In this case, the status quo
was maintained, although Rosberg made it clear that he was playing the dutiful role, telling the team to 'remember this one' as he headed for parc ferme
. The Briton had held the upper hand through most of the 56 laps, but admitted on the podium that Rosberg had probably deserved to be there instead of him.
Mercedes was the only team able to hold a candle to Red Bull once Alonso had made his early, and somewhat embarrassing, exit. With his wing hanging by a thread, it is unexplainable why he did not pit at the end of lap one, but Hamilton and Rosberg were happy to take advantage, slotting into third and fourth, and appearing mid-race to have the pace to challenge the leaders, fuelling Vettel's desire to pass Webber. Once the instruction to save fuel was issued, however, the gap to Red Bull grew and Hamilton and Rosberg were left to squabble over the final piece of silverware.
There was no threat to the Silver Arrows, with fifth-placed Massa some 13 seconds adrift after a fraught race that saw him lose his front row start to team-mate Alonso and then get caught out when the Spaniard clipped Vettel. Relegated to sixth, the Brazilian did not appear to have the performance to live with those ahead of him, and spent the race battling with the Lotus and McLaren drivers. A late stop for fresh rubber than allowed him to consolidate a top five spot following Button's untimely DNF, passing Sergio Perez, Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean in the closing stages.
With the Australian Grand Prix winner unable to repeat his Melbourne feats, despite both Lotuses again making one stop fewer than their main rivals, Button appeared in line for a top five until the failure to secure his right front wheel at the final round of stops left him stranded in pit-lane. Rejoining in 14th, he posted the fastest lap of the race to that point before McLaren took the decision to retire him with a view to the next race in China.
Grosjean and Raikkonen followed Massa home, the Finn having got a little heated in a wheel-banging battle with Nico Hulkenberg before eventually getting the better of the Sauber driver, while Jean-Eric Vergne claimed the final point for Toro Rosso despite having missed the cut in Q1 on Saturday afternoon and escaped censure for an 'unsafe release' which saw him make contact with Caterham's Charles Pic.
Force India would have been in the hunt for further points after bringing both cars home in the top ten in Australia, but suffered a pit-lane nightmare as its mechanics struggled to deal with new wheel nuts. After lengthy delays for both drivers, a double retirement completed a miserable day for the Silverstone team.