The German had been coming under pressure from Rosberg, but still held a lead approaching two seconds when his transmission gave up the ghost exiting the Vale chicane. Unable to pit, Vettel crawled to a standstill on the main straight, but the stewards deemed that his RB9 remained in a dangerous spot and called for the race to be neutralised once again.
Despite being promoted to first and third positions, Rosberg and Webber both responded to calls to pit for a third time, fortunately in the German's case as his left rear was subsequently discovered to have a cut in it. Alonso and Raikkonen, however, were not so fortunate, the Spaniard already committed to stopping before the pace car emerged and the Finn not being stopped at all, leaving him on older tyres for the final six laps.
The order at the restart, on lap 46, showed Rosberg out front, with Raikkonen next up, ahead of Sutil and Ricciardo, the Australian enjoying a fine audition for Webber's soon-to-be-vacant seat at RBR having run in the top ten throughout. The present incumbent of the #2 was fifth on the road, with Sergio Perez, Jenson Button, Alonso, Hamilton and Grosjean filling the other points positions.
Knowing that their championship aspirations had been revived by Vettel's first DNF since Valencia last year, Webber, Hamilton and Alonso were in no mood to hang about, each gaining a place on the first lap after being released from behind Bernd Maylander's Mercedes. Alonso, however, was lucky to emerge unscathed from the race's final moment of drama, as Perez suffered his own left-rear failure while running directly ahead of the Ferrari…
Undeterred, Alonso continued to pick off cars ahead of him, taking Ricciardo for fifth and dragging Hamilton through with him. Webber, meanwhile, had already despatched Sutil at the end of the Wellington Straight to move into a podium position, but wasn't done there.
Having promised his engineer that the march to the front 'will happen' while still behind the safety car, the Australian then homed in on the tyre-troubled Raikkonen. Despite having his first bid to pass at Brooklands rebuffed by the Finn, Webber got as close as he could the Lotus' gearbox before swooping out to take second spot on the run to Copse. From there, he had four laps to hunt down Rosberg, and clearly had better pace than the German…
Close as he did, however, time was against Webber, who was a matter of tenths outside the DRS zone on the final lap and just unable to bridge the gap to what would have been an emotional farewell to the British Grand Prix, a circuit he enjoys and a crowd who have taken him to their hearts.
Rosberg thus took a second victory of 2013, one a lot more fortunate than his consummate performance in Monaco but one that, similarly, rewarded Mercedes for the strides it has made with the race performance of the W04.
Alonso, meanwhile, added Sutil to his list of victims, before making short work of Raikkonen at Stowe with two laps to run to also move into a podium position. Given that he had qualified only tenth, and fallen to eighth with the unfortunate timing of his final pit-stop, it was another charging drive from the Ferrari man, making the most of Vettel's exit.
Hamilton, too, continued to pick up places, snatching fifth from Sutil on lap 49, and fourth from Raikkonen next time around, but did not have enough in hand to catch and pass Alonso to complete a remarkable comeback from 22nd and last.