Nico Rosberg claimed his second win of the 2013 F1 season after emerging from a dramatic British Grand Prix just 0.7secs ahead of a charging Mark Webber.
The German appeared to be far from a contender for victory for much of the 52-lap race, losing his second place to Sebastian Vettel off the line and having to play a supporting role as, initially, Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton and, latterly, Vettel took charge at the front. Only when misfortune struck both the pacesetters did Rosberg's hopes take an upswing, the Monaco Grand Prix winner suddenly finding himself at the front….
Hamilton was the first to fall away, the Briton losing an advantage of over a second built up after holding on to his pole position from the start. Despite Vettel slotting into second place into turn one, Hamilton was able to extend his advantage and appeared in control of the race when his left-rear tyre let go in spectacular fashion on the Wellington Straight. With over half the lap remaining before he could pit for a replacement, the Briton plummeted down the order, with Vettel picking up a lead that many expected him to hold to the end.
Hamilton's tyre failure, which came on lap eight, was only the tip of the iceberg, as Felipe Massa was pitched into a spin at almost the same point on the track when the same tyre came apart on his Ferrari a lap later. While debris from an opening corner clash between Webber and Romain Grosjean could have been to blame given its proximity to the incidents, a third failure, suffered by Jean-Eric Vergne at the end of the Hangar Straight five laps later, cast the light back onto Pirelli, given similar incidents in previous races.
While teams – who had already responded by calling for the first round of pit-stops - frantically warned their drivers to keep off the kerbs, particularly at the quicker exits, Pirelli attempted to discover the cause of further embarrassment to its brand, again shying away from blaming its own product until the facts could be established.
Unsurprisingly, the safety car was scrambled to give the marshals cover to clear the track of debris, with Massa's team-mate Fernando Alonso and Webber taking the opportunity to pit for fresh tyres and, in the Australian's case, a new nose. More alarmingly, however, was Alonso's subsequent claim that he had suffered a left rear deflation as he approached the pits….
Despite concerns over possible further problems, the safety car was withdrawn at the end of lap 21, with few of the 22 runners heeding the calls to exercise caution over the kerbs. Vettel needed no second bidding to stretch the Red Bull's legs, immediately opening a one-second gap across the start-finish line and doubling that advantage in the space of a couple of laps. Rosberg remained second, with Adrian Sutil – following a good initial start – still ahead of Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Romain Grosjean and Daniel Ricciardo.
Both Red Bull and Ferrari made little secret of the fact that they had increased the tyre pressures on the second set of rubber, but the change did not appear to affect Vettel as he continued to hold firm at the front through the middle of the race, pulling enough of an advantage to ensure that he remained ahead during the second round of stops. More debris at the Stowe pointed to a fourth tyre failure, although it took some time for Esteban Gutierrez's problem to filter through, and there was no recourse to the safety car until the closing laps – when Vettel's car ground to a halt rounding the final turn of lap 41….