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
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.