Button takes victory in his two hundredth Grand Prix

Jenson Button celebrated his two hundredth Grand Prix with victory in a wet/dry Hungarian Grand Prix.

McLaren could have had a one-two finish, with Lewis Hamilton leading the majority of the Grand Prix, but a tyre strategy misjudgement and a drive-through penalty ruined Hamilton’s race.

Championship leader Sebastian Vettel had to settle for second position, ahead of Fernando Alonso and Hamilton.

The race began on a damp track with all twenty-four drivers on the intermediates. Starting in second, Hamilton was in aggressive mood and immediately focused his attention on passing Sebastian Vettel for the race lead. The duel between the pair was quite exciting.

The lead finally changed on lap five, when Vettel ran wide at Turn 2 and Hamilton breezed past and pulled away, soon extending a four-second lead over the championship leader, who was at least able to drop Button at this stage.

Laps 10 to 13 saw all the leaders decide the track was ready for slicks, and coming in one lap sooner than Vettel paid off for Button, who made the most of this warmer tyres and greater confidence to take second place into Turn 2.

Mark Webber pulled off the same manoeuvre on Alonso for fourth at the same time. The Ferrari had lost ground through Turn 1 on the opening lap, and then charged back up the order despite two minor trips off track.

The relatively serene middle phase of the race saw Hamilton holding a comfortable gap over Button, who had a similar five-second advantage back to Vettel, while Webber fended off Alonso ten-second behind them.

Alonso decided to make a relatively early third pit-stop and take another set of option (super softs), while all the other leaders except Hamilton switched to the prime (softs) at this point.

That burst of pace allowed Alonso to jump both Red Bulls during his rapid laps before they pitted, though the Pirellis began to wear out and he lost third to Vettel again.

Hamilton adopted the same strategy as Alonso, which left him looking very vulnerable to Button, but in the event the return of the rain rendered these tactics rather irrelevant.

The sudden shower hit on lap 47, causing Hamilton to spin at the chicane. He tried to rejoin as quickly as possible, but could not prevent his team-mate taking the lead. As he rotated around, he forced Paul di Resta off the track and that move ultimately earn Hamilton a drive-through penalty.

With the rain increasing, Button slipped up at Turn 2 four laps later, allowing Hamilton back into the lead. Button retaliated on the following lap and briefly regained first place on the pits straight, only to go wide again at Turn 2 as the top spot was exchanged yet again.

While all this was going on the McLaren drivers were in discussion with the pit wall on whether to switch to intermediate tyres. Initially, the team told both to come in which would have meant Button queueing behind Hamilton.

But as the lap neared an end the team decided not to bring Button in. Hamilton, struggling to hear his instructions with a faulty radio, did pit for intermediate tyres.

This was a big mistake as the brief shower was gone, and he was soon back in for slicks. His drive-through penalty for nearly wiping out Paul di Resta followed; dropping Hamilton down to sixth and leaving his McLaren team-mate clear to take the chequered flag.

The 2009 champion briefly came under pressure from last year’s champion, but had the speed to pull away again and clinch his second Grand Prix victory of the season.

With Webber also switching to intermediates unnecessary, Alonso regained third, which he held despite a quick late spin.

Hamilton battled back to fourth ahead of Webber, with Felipe Massa recovering from an early spin to take sixth.

Kamui Kobayashi tried to go the full distance on just a two-stop strategy and held seventh heading into the closing stages, albeit with a massive queue of cars chasing his Sauber.

The plan did not work, and he had to pit for fresh set of Pirellis after tumbling down the order, as Paul di Resta came through to seventh and Sebastien Buemi turned P23 on the grid into an eighth place for Toro Rosso.

Nico Rosberg finished in ninth position in the remaining Mercedes as team-mate Michael Schumacher was forced to retire with a gearbox issue.

Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari survived a clash with Kobayashi to take the final point with tenth.

One of the most spectacular incidents of this highly eventful race befell Nick Heidfeld, whose Renault caught fire in the pit exit following a long stop, with a minor explosion on its left-hand side as the track marshals dealt with the blaze.

Formula One now enters its summer break. Despite winning a single race in the past four Grands Prix, Sebastian Vettel still leads the championship with 234 points. It’s going to be fascinating to see if McLaren and Ferrari can keep applying pressure to Red Bull in the second half of the championship.

Hungarian Grand Prix, 70 laps:

1.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           1h43:42.337
2.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +3.588
3.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +19.819
4.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +48.338
5.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +49.742
6.  Massa         Ferrari                    +1:17.176
7.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +1 lap
8.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
9.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +1 lap
10.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
11.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +1 lap
12.  Petrov        Renault                    +1 lap
13.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +2 laps
14.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +2 laps
15.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +2 laps
16.  Maldonado     Williams-Cosworth          +2 laps
17.  Glock         Virgin-Cosworth            +4 laps
18.  Ricciardo     HRT-Cosworth               +4 laps
19.  D’Ambrosio    Virgin-Cosworth            +5 laps
20.  Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth               +5 laps

Fastest lap: Massa, 1:23.415

Not classified/retirements:

Kovalainen    Lotus-Renault                56 laps
Schumacher    Mercedes                     27 laps
Heidfeld      Renault                      24 laps
Trulli        Lotus-Renault                18 laps

World Championship standings, round 11:                

1.  Vettel       234
2.  Webber       149
3.  Hamilton     146
4.  Alonso       145
5.  Button       134
6.  Massa         70
7.  Rosberg       48
8.  Heidfeld      34
9.  Schumacher    32
10.  Petrov        32
11.  Kobayashi     27
12.  Sutil         18
13.  Buemi         12
14.  Alguersuari   10
15.  Di Resta       8
16.  Perez          8
17.  Barrichello    4

1.  Red Bull-Renault          383
2.  McLaren-Mercedes          280
3.  Ferrari                   215
4.  Mercedes                   80
5.  Renault                    66
6.  Sauber-Ferrari             35
7.  Force India-Mercedes       26
8.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari         22
9.  Williams-Cosworth           4

Next race: Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps. August 26-28.

Vettel snatches pole ahead of Hamilton

Championship leader Sebastian Vettel earned his twenty-third career pole position for Red Bull Racing, denying McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton to the top spot for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The margin between Vettel and Hamilton was really close – only 0.163 seconds – with Vettel’s lap of one minute, 19.815 seconds good enough to earn the champion pole at the Hungaroring.

Competing in his two hundredth Grand Prix, Jenson Button will start in third for McLaren ahead of the Ferrari duo of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso. This is the first time that Massa has out-qualified his Scuderia team-mate this season.

Last year’s winner Mark Webber could only manage the sixth quickest time, ahead of the Mercedes-powered cars of Nico Rosberg, Adrian Sutil and Michael Schumacher. As for Sergio Perez, the Sauber driver elated not to run in Q3 to save a set of option tyres for the race. Perez will start in tenth position.

There was a gap of almost two seconds from first to tenth with a couple of minutes of Q2 remaining, the result of which was that the top seven at that moment – led by Jenson Button – did not undertake second runs.

All of those drivers had done enough to make it into Q3, but behind them the order was constantly changing. Late laps for Sutil and Schumacher brought the Force India and Mercedes drivers into the top ten after the chequered flag had come out.

The biggest loser was Force India’s Paul di Resta, who was bumped back to P11. The Renaults of Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld were P12 and P14, split by Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber, while Rubens Barrichello and Jaime Alguersuari were next up for Williams and Toro Rosso.

The star of Q1 was Heikki Kovalainen, who put his Lotus in an impressive P19 and just over 0.1 seconds behind Sebastien Buemi.

Behind Kovalainen were his team-mate Jarno Trulli, Virgin Racing’s Timo Glock and the Hispania drivers Vitantonio Liuzzi and Daniel Ricciardo.

Even though Sebastien Buemi recorded the eighteenth fastest time, he will drop five places on the grid following his collision with Nick Heidfeld at the Nürburgring last weekend.

Qualifying times from the Hungaroring:

1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m19.815s
2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m19.978s
3.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m20.024s
4.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m20.350s
5.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m20.365s
6.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m20.474s
7.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m21.098s
8.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes 1m21.445s
9.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m21.907s
10.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       No time
11.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m22.256s
12.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault              1m22.284s
13.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m22.435s
14.  Nick Heidfeld         Renault              1m22.470s
15.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth    1m22.684s
16.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m22.979s
17.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth    No time
18.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault        1m24.362s
19.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault        1m24.534s
20.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth      1m26.294s
21.  Vitantonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth         1m26.323s
22.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth         1m26.479s
23.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m24.070s*
24.  Jerome D’Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth      1m26.510s

107 per cent time: 1m27.288s

*Five-place grid penalty

Sky Sports and BBC to share UK coverage from 2012

From next year, the excellent BBC coverage of Formula One will be shared with Sky Sports. That means all the practice and qualifying sessions, plus the race itself can be only be seen on the pay channel, while only highlights will be available on the Beeb.

But at least the Radio 5 Live commentary will continue in all the Grands Prix next season.

Why the change? The BBC was forced to cut costs significantly and even though the coverage this season has been great with record numbers of television audience at every Grand Prix, the lost to ‘free-to-air’ broadcast is bad news for Formula One fans. There were rumours that it was heading back to ITV or possibly to Channel 4 and Five, but in the end it went to Sky.

I will certainly miss the in-depth analysis on the red button, plus the live broadcast on all the sessions available on the BBC Sport website. Can Sky Sports provide a better ‘show’? We shall see.

As for the deal, both the BBC and Sky are happy with the outcome.

BBC Sport director Barbara Slater said: “We are absolutely delighted that F1 will remain on the BBC.

“The sport has never been more popular with TV audiences at a ten-year high and the BBC has always stated its commitment to the big national sporting moments.

“With this new deal not only have we delivered significant savings but we have also ensured that through our live and extended highlights coverage all the action continues to be available to licence-fee payers.”

Barney Francis, the managing director of Sky Sports, said: “This is fantastic news for F1 fans and Sky Sports will be the only place to follow every race live and in HD.

“We will give F1 the full Sky Sports treatment with a commitment to each race never seen before on UK television.”

This is a sad day for true Formula One enthusiasts. Even though I have a Sky subscription (High Definition), I don’t think it is good value for money to watch twenty races next year, even with advert breaks!

Which means I have to resort to the radio and some kind of television feed available on the interweb to get my racing action.

Hamilton storms to victory at the Nürburgring

Lewis Hamilton took his second Grand Prix victory of the season with a determined drive at the Nürburgring. The McLaren driver took advantage from rival Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber with his sensational race pace to score a win in the German Grand Prix.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso finished in second position while pole sitter Mark Webber was only third for Red Bull Racing.

As for the battle for fourth, Sebastian Vettel pitted until the final lap to take the crucial track position over Felipe Massa in a race in the pits while changing to the prime tyre.

By finishing outside the podium positions, the championship leader’s remarkable run in coming first or second is over. And yet, Vettel still leads the standings with 216 points, 77 ahead over team-mate Webber and 82 over race winner Hamilton.

Webber almost got swamped at the start – no thanks to his car bogging down as the five red lights went out – with Hamilton instantly sweeping past him and the two Ferraris then going either side of the Red Bull into Turn 1. Neither made it through, and while Alonso held on in third ahead of Vettel, Massa was edged out wide and dropped to sixth behind Nico Rosberg.

Vettel would get past Alonso for third place when the Ferrari ran wide in the Mercedes-Benz complex on lap two, but six laps later the Silverstone winner was able to successfully retaliate into Turn 1. Soon afterwards, Vettel lost touch with the lead battle when he brushed the damp white marker line under braking for Turn 10 and snapped into a spin. He rejoined without losing track position, but the top three were long gone.

Webber was the first of the evenly-matched trio to pit on lap 14. The Australian initially lost time in traffic, but once in clear air he was able to start setting new fastest sector times, meaning that when Hamilton and Alonso pitted in unison on lap 16, they came out just behind the Red Bull.

Once the late-stopping Massa came in for his first tyre change, Webber finally found himself leading a lap for the first time this season, though he could not shake off Hamilton and Alonso.

Webber was again the first to come in when the second stops began on lap 30, with Hamilton and Alonso following suit over the next two laps.

This time the under-cut did not work. Hamilton rejoined ahead of Webber and determinedly fended off the Red Bull through the complex. Alonso managed to jump both of them, but Hamilton made the most of his warmer Pirellis to drive around the outside of the Ferrari at Turn 2 to retake the lead and then start edging clear, holding a three-second cushion while Webber began to drift away from Alonso.

With the prime tyres felt to be significantly slower, the leaders tried to stretch their third set of option as long as possible. Hamilton came in on lap 50, and though Alonso held on for two laps longer, the McLaren was able to stay narrowly in front.

Webber took a gamble in staying out longer and ran until lap 56 of 60 – finally taking the prime – but it did not pay off, as he rejoined still some distance behind Hamilton and Alonso.

Vettel fell behind Massa in the first pit-stops and spent the rest of the race on the Ferrari’s gearbox. Only when they finally pitted for the prime with just one lap to the flag did the championship leader manage to get fourth back.

Adrian Sutil’s best drive of the season brought him sixth place for Force India, as he made a two-stop strategy work to beat the Silver Arrows duo of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher. The latter had been challenging his team-mate until losing time with a mid-race spin at Turn 10.

A great start and a two-stop strategy helped Kamui Kobayashi come through from P17 to ninth for Sauber, just ahead of Petrov, who lost ground by staying out too long on his first set of tyres.

As for Jenson Button, this was a disappointed race for the McLaren driver. A slow start dropped him to tenth, and he then spent the race in traffic, couped up behind Vitaly Petrov’s Renault for most of the first stint. Just after making it past Rosberg and into sixth spot, his car developed a hydraulic problem and had to retire.

Completing a disappointing day for the majority of the large home driver contingent, Renault’s Nick Heidfeld tangled with Paul di Resta’s Force India on the opening lap. The German earned a drive-through penalty for the incident, but by that time Heidfeld was out of the race after clashing with Sebastien Buemi’s Toro Rosso on the approach to the chicane.

Red Bull Racing must be feeling the pressure as both Ferrari and McLaren are closing the performance gap. With Alonso winning the previous race at Silverstone and now Hamilton at the Nürburgring, the team must step up or risk losing the advantage as the Formula One World Championship enters the second half of the 2011 season.

German Grand Prix race result, 60 laps:

1.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           1h37:30.334s
2.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +3.980s
3.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +9.788s
4.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +47.921s
5.  Massa         Ferrari                    +52.252s
6.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +1:26.208s
7.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +1 lap
8.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +1 lap
9.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +1 lap
10.  Petrov        Renault                    +1 lap
11.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +1 lap
12.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
13.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +1 lap
14.  Maldonado     Williams-Cosworth          +1 lap
15.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
16.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Renault              +2 laps
17.  Glock         Virgin-Cosworth            +3 laps
18.  D’Ambrosio    Virgin-Cosworth            +3 laps
19.  Ricciardo     HRT-Cosworth               +3 laps
20.  Chandhok      Lotus-Renault              +4 laps

Fastest lap: Vettel, 1:34.587

Not classified/retirements:

Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth                 44 laps
Button        McLaren-Mercedes             42 laps
Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth            23 laps
Heidfeld      Renault                      10 laps

World Championship standings, round 10:

1.  Vettel       216
2.  Webber       139
3.  Hamilton     134
4.  Alonso       130
5.  Button       109
6.  Massa         62
7.  Rosberg       46
8.  Heidfeld      34
9.  Schumacher    32
10.  Petrov        32
11.  Kobayashi     27
12.  Sutil         18
13.  Alguersuari    9
14.  Perez          8
15.  Buemi          8
16.  Barrichello    4
17.  Di Resta       2

1.  Red Bull-Renault          355
2.  McLaren-Mercedes          243
3.  Ferrari                   192
4.  Mercedes                   78
5.  Renault                    66
6.  Sauber-Ferrari             35
7.  Force India-Mercedes       20
8.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari         17
9.  Williams-Cosworth           4

Next race: Hungarian Grand Prix, Hungaroring. July 29-31.

Webber edges Hamilton to German pole position

Mark Webber takes his second consecutive pole position, edging out a surprising challenge from Lewis Hamilton and McLaren.

In the build-up to qualifying, the McLaren team were not expected to challenge for pole position honours following a low-key practice form. But in the all important top-ten shootout, Lewis Hamilton and McLaren turned out to be the biggest threat to Webber and Red Bull.

And yet, the Australian was able to response with an impressive lap time of one minute, 30.079 seconds to maintain Red Bull Racing’s excellent form in qualifying this season.

As for his team-mate Sebastian Vettel, he will start his home race in only third position as Lewis Hamilton drove a ‘wicked lap’ to split the Red Bulls. This is the first time that the championship leader is not on the front row.

Silverstone winner Fernando Alonso had to settle for fourth for Ferrari. This was a disappointment following some promising speed in the practice sessions leading up to qualifying.

Webber looked unbeatable throughout Q3, producing a one minute, 30.251 seconds on his first flying lap and then improving to one minute, 30.079 seconds to put himself out of reach from his rivals.

Hamilton was third after the first runs, was briefly pushed down to fourth place by Alonso, but then blasted to second position with a lap only 0.055 seconds down on Webber.

Vettel’s second attempt was not quick enough to reclaim the outside front row spot, while Alonso was 0.4 seconds off the pole pace as he took fourth, half a second clear of his fifth-placed Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa.

Nico Rosberg opted to run a single flying lap to qualify his Mercedes in sixth, ahead of Jenson Button, who was a second away from his McLaren team-mate.

Adrian Sutil reached Q3 for his home Grand Prix and gave Force India eighth position, ahead of Renault’s Vitaly Petrov and national hero Michael Schumacher in the other Silver Arrows.

Nick Heidfeld and Paul di Resta could not match their Renault and Force India team-mates’ progress into Q2 so will share the sixth row, ahead of the Williams duo, with Pastor Maldonado out-qualifying Rubens Barrichello by four tenths of a second.

After three start in P18 – Jaime Alguersuari finally got beyond Q1 again – though he only made it as high as P17, just behind Toro Rosso team-mate Sebastien Buemi. The pair are in between the Saubers, with Sergio Perez in P15 and Kamui Kobayashi being eliminated in Q1.

Karun Chandhok got within 0.823 seconds of Team Lotus team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, though the Indian could not prevent Virgin Racing’s Timo Glock sneaking between the Lotus duo.

Daniel Ricciardo showed highly encouraging pace in his second Grand Prix qualifying session, as he was only 0.025 seconds adrift of Hispania team-mate Tonio Liuzzi on the back row. And he will start ahead of the Italian in any case due to Liuzzi’s gearbox change penalty.

Qualifying times from the Nürburgring:

1.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1n30.079s
2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1n30.134s
3.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1n30.216s
4.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1n30.442s
5.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1n30.910s
6.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1n31.263s
7.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1n31.288s
8.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes 1n32.010s
9.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault              1n32.187s
10.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1n32.482s
11.  Nick Heidfeld         Renault              1m32.215s
12.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m32.560s
13.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth    1m32.635s
14.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth    1m33.043s
15.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m33.176s
16.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m33.546s
17.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m33.698s
18.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m33.786s
19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault        1m35.599s
20.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth      1m36.400s
21.  Karun Chandhok        Lotus-Renault        1m36.422s
22.  Jerome D’Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth      1m36.641s
23.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth         1m37.036s
24.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth         1m37.011s*

*Five-place penalty for gearbox change.

107 per cent time: 1m38.253s

Alonso charges through to victory at Silverstone

Fernando Alonso took the chequered flag with a charging drive in the Ferrari to score his twenty-seventh career Grand Prix victory at Silverstone.

By taking the win at the British Grand Prix, it reveals the Scuderia are back to challenge the likes of Red Bull Racing and McLaren Mercedes for top honours this season.

Championship leader Sebastian Vettel was able to fend off team-mate Mark Webber to take second – even though the use of team orders issued by Christian Horner prevented the Australian to overtake the German in the final few laps.

As for the duel for fourth, Lewis Hamilton just managed to hold onto the position with a last lap, final corner move from Felipe Massa. The McLaren and Ferrari actually made contact into Club but Hamilton kept his line and forced his rival off track to keep the spot.

The race had got underway in half-wet/half-dry conditions, with the area around the original start/finish area sodden but the new grid relatively dry by comparison.

Vettel got the jump on pole man Webber off the start, and charged into a comfortable early lead, while the Australian kept Alonso at bay in third.

Hamilton provided most of the initial action, making very rapid progress from his disappointing tenth on the grid to attack Felipe Massa’s Ferrari for fourth within a handful of laps.

Michael Schumacher triggered the move to slicks tyres somewhat accidentally when he slithered into Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber on lap 10 and had to pit for a new front wing and tyres on his Mercedes.

The German’s immediate burst of pace convinced everyone else to come in, with Webber, Alonso and Hamilton choosing lap 12 while Vettel and Massa stayed out until the following lap.

Earlier proved slightly the better option, as by the time everyone was back up to speed on slicks, Vettel’s lead over Webber was down to 3.3 seconds, and rapidly getting smaller, although once the Red Bulls were within 1.5 seconds Vettel managed to raise his pace and keep his team-mate under control.

Alonso initially struggled to get temperature into his Pirellis and not only fell away from the Red Bulls, but lost third to a charging Hamilton into Copse.

But once the car and tyres were working in harmony again, Alonso started to fly. He used the Drag Reduction System to sweep past Hamilton into Brooklands on lap 23, and both then started hunting down the Red Bulls.

They got close enough that when both Vettel and Webber had slow pit-stops on laps 26 and 27, they fell to third and fourth behind new leader Alonso and Hamilton.

Now in clear air, Alonso began to look unstoppable – charging away from Hamilton at a rate of a second per lap as the McLaren had to start focusing on holding off the Red Bulls.

He succeeded until the final pit-stops, when Vettel stopped a lap sooner and jumped ahead. But even with the McLaren out of his way, Vettel could not catch the now dominant Alonso, who was long gone and heading for his first win since the Korean Grand Prix last year.

With his McLaren team instructing him to save fuel, Hamilton backed off and lost third to Webber, who then caught Vettel and mounted a huge late effort to overtake his team-mate until ordered to ‘maintain the gap’ on the final lap.

The slowing Hamilton had Massa all over him going into the closing moments, but retained fourth in a wild, wheel-banging battle through the last corners of the race.

Button ran fifth until the final pit-stops, when he was sent out with his right front wheel not properly attached and had to retire in the pit exit. His miserable bad luck on home ground continues with twelve appearance at the British Grand Prix not resulting in a podium finish.

Nico Rosberg made a two-stop strategy work to take sixth for Mercedes GP, just ahead of Sergio Perez’s Sauber. Nick Heidfeld salvaged eighth from Renault’s difficult weekend, with Michael Schumacher recovering well to take ninth, followed by Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari, Adrian Sutil’s Force India and Vitaly Petrov in the other Renault.

Paul di Resta’s brilliant qualifying effort was wasted when a pit-stop miscommunication badly delayed the Force India. He later needed a new front wing after clashing with Sebastien Buemi in an incident that forced the Toro Rosso to retire due to damage from a resultant puncture.

Fernando Alonso’s victory at Silverstone means he is now 92 points behind series leader Sebastian Vettel, while Red Bull Racing increase their points lead in the constructors’ championship.

British Grand Prix, Silverstone. 52 laps:

1.  Alonso        Ferrari                    1h28:41.194
2.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +16.511
3.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +16.947
4.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +28.986
5.  Massa         Ferrari                    +29.010
6.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +1:00.665
7.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +1:05.590
8.  Heidfeld      Renault                    +1:15.542
9.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +1:17.912
10.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari        +1:19.108
11.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes      +1:19.712
12.  Petrov        Renault                   +1:20.600
13.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth         +1 lap
14.  Maldonado     Williams-Cosworth         +1 lap
15.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes      +1 lap
16.  Glock         Virgin-Cosworth           +2 laps
17.  D’Ambrosio    Virgin-Cosworth           +2 laps
18.  Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth              +2 laps
19.  Ricciardo     HRT-Cosworth              +3 laps

Fastest lap: Alonso, 1:34.908

Not classified/retirements:

Button        McLaren-Mercedes             41 laps
Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari           26 laps
Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari               24 laps
Trulli        Lotus-Renault                11 laps
Kovalainen    Lotus-Renault                3 laps

World Championship standings, round 9:

1. Vettel       204
2. Webber       124
3. Alonso       112
4. Hamilton     109
5. Button       109
6. Massa         52
7. Rosberg       40
8. Heidfeld      34
9. Petrov        31
10. Schumacher    28
11. Kobayashi     25
12. Sutil         10
13. Alguersuari    9
14. Buemi          8
15. Perez          8
16. Barrichello    4
17. Di Resta       2

1. Red Bull-Renault          328
2. McLaren-Mercedes          218
3. Ferrari                   164
4. Mercedes                   68
5. Renault                    65
6. Sauber-Ferrari             33
7. Toro Rosso-Ferrari         17
8. Force India-Mercedes       12
9. Williams-Cosworth           4

Next race: German Grand Prix, Nürburgring. July 22-24.

Webber leads Red Bull front row at Silverstone

Mark Webber will start the British Grand Prix in pole position following changeable conditions at Silverstone.

Even though the on-going exhaust row is still causing a big distraction off track, the sheer speed of the RB7 on track continues to impress with Webber and Vettel earning the team yet another front row grid position.

The margin between the Red Bull drivers was only 0.032 seconds with Webber’s lap time of one minute, 30.399 seconds around the legendary British circuit good enough to earn his eighth career pole position.

Ferrari emerged as Red Bull Racing’s biggest threat, while McLaren struggled with pace. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa share row two – Alonso two tenths off pole position despite a trip through the gravel at one point – but the biggest disappointment was McLaren. Jenson Button was 1.5 seconds away from Webber’s time as he took fifth while team-mate Lewis Hamilton was way back in tenth place.

Paul di Resta will start his home race in a spectacular sixth place for Force India, while fellow rookie Pastor Maldonado continues to impress by qualifying in seventh for Williams, ahead of Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi.

For Michael Schumacher, the seven-time world champion was caught out in the mixed conditions and will start in a disappointing P13. The Renaults also had a difficult qualifying session with Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld in P14 and P16 respectively.

Toro Rosso was most disadvantaged when the rain came down in Q1, with Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi’s first runs only good enough for P18 and P19. That meant Lotus got a car into Q2 with Heikki Kovalainen, who took P17.

While at the back, Timo Glock managed to get his Virgin Racing ahead of Jarno Trulli’s Lotus in P20, with Daniel Ricciardo starting in P24 on his first grand prix appearance, having been 0.6 seconds slower than Hispania team-mate Tonio Liuzzi.

Qualifying times from Silverstone:

1.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m30.399s
2.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m30.431s
3.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m30.516s
4.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m31.124s
5.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m31.989s
6.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m31.929s
7.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth    1m31.933s
8.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m32.128s
9.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m32.209s
10.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m32.376s
11.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes 1m32.617s
12.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m32.624s
13.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m32.656s
14.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault              1m32.734s
15.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth    1m33.119s
16.  Nick Heidfeld         Renault              1m33.805s
17.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault        1m34.821s
18.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m35.245s
19.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m35.749s
20.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth      1m36.203s
21.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault        1m36.456s
22.  Jerome D’Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth      1m37.154s
23.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth         1m37.484s
24.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth         1m38.059s

107 per cent time: 1m39.156s