British GP - Sunday - Race Report
Nico Rosberg squeaked out a victory over Mark Webber in the blowout British Grand Prix.
It was an exciting and dramatic race with good battles throughout the 52 laps, but it was marred by five drivers having their Pirelli tires blowout and several more narrowly avoiding having the same disaster.
"Definitely that's a problem," Rosberg said of the tire woes. "Too many tire failures and they must look into that and see what can be done."
On the bright side, Rosberg had scored a home win for the Mercedes team whose F1 factory is just a few miles down the road from the Silverstone circuit.
"A fantastic day definitely, and it's very special because it's the home grand prix of the team and the factory is ten minutes away," Rosberg said after winning his second grand prix of the year and the third of his career. "A lot of people, a lot of my fellow team members and colleagues are in the grandstands, watching today and it's very, very nice that I was able to give them such a great race and such a great result. They really deserve it – you really deserve it because you've worked so well all season. It's great to see the momentum we have in the team at the moment."
Rosberg's Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton started from the pole and led the first seven laps. But Hamilton's hopes of winning his home grand prix went up in shreds when his left rear tire had a blowout. He limped back to the pits and would eventually finish a fighting fourth.
Sebastian Vettel qualified his Red Bull third and sliced by Rosberg to grab second place at the start. Vettel took over the lead on lap eight and led comfortably until lap 40. But a gearbox problem ended his race and for the first time this year he did not score any points. Rosberg moved into first place on lap 41.
"Obviously it's quite disappointing to retire when we were only a few laps from the end," Vettel said. "We had a gearbox issue, I think fifth gear broke and damaged the rest of the gearbox as well, so it was not possible to carry on. It's a shame because we were in a good position and it's a nice race to win here, so yeah I guess we have to come back next year and try again. It's good that it's only a short time until the next race."
Vettel parked his car on the pit straight and that set up the thrilling final laps of the race. The safety car came out from laps 42 to 45 so that the Red Bull could be removed.
The dilemma for the teams was whether they should call their drivers in for new tires for the final sprint to the checkered flag. By coincidence, Ferrari had already told Fernando Alonso to pit just before the safety car came out.
Rosberg, and Mark Webber who was in second place in his Red Bull, pitted. Kimi Raikkonen, third in the Lotus, Adrian Sutil, fourth in his Force India, Daniel Ricciardo, fifth in his Toro Rosso, and Felipe Massa, sixth in his Ferrari, stayed out on the track.
The order on lap 45, just before the pace car came in, was now: Rosberg, Raikkonen, Sutil, Ricciardo, Webber and Sergio Perez (McLaren.) That would all change in the final seven wild laps.
Webber, who had qualified fourth and dropped to 14th on lap one after making a horrible start and then colliding with Romain Grosjean, was on a charge. He quickly moved into second in those final laps and set off after Rosberg. But Webber could not quite get the job done and Rosberg won by .765 of a second.
"The boys did a great job to put a fresh front wing on at the stop and then we started to get the race underway from there," Webber said. "Obviously there were a lot of people with issues with the tires which helped a bit but we were lucky not to have any issues. It was a clean race, good strategy. I would have liked a few more laps at Nico but he deserved the win. He was quick all day, obviously. Little bit of fortune but anyway you've got to be there to capitalize. I'm very happy with second, team have done a good job and thanks – last time here in Formula One in front of the British fans – thank you very much."
Webber had announced earlier in the weekend that he was retiring from F1 at the end of the season to join Porsche's Le Mans program.
Rosberg was fast.
"We have such momentum going at the moment, progressing all the time," he said. "Really, really massively quick in qualifying, also getting faster and faster in the race. I think today we had equally the fastest race car as well."
Alonso vaulted from seventh to third.
"With the last safety car we lost six positions," he said. "But overall I think it has been a very lucky race for us. Looking at the problems with the tires of some of the drivers, we fact we didn't any problem we have to consider lucky. And then with Sebastian's problem, so we've been also lucky to recover some points. At the end it was a very good Sunday and hopefully we put on a good show for the great, great fans. They've been here from Thursday to today, supporting all the teams, respecting all the teams. Thank you very much."
Hamilton did a great job to recover from last place to finish fourth.
"Of course, I'm disappointed by today's race," he said, "and I would have loved to deliver the win this afternoon for all the British fans here at Silverstone. The race started so well for us today; I felt comfortable out in front and was managing my pace. The tire problem was such a shame and from then, it was just a case of giving it my all and battling as far up the field as possible. I had some good overtaking moves and, given another lap, I might have got Fernando and ended up on the podium. Everything considered, fourth place is pretty good after having been last on lap 10 and we'll take that. It's a great result for the team today, big congratulations to Nico who came through a tricky situation to take the win for us. We've now moved up to second place in the Constructors' Championship which is a nice reward for everyone at the factories just down the road from here."
Raikkonen was disappointed to end up fifth.
"I tried to hold on at the end of the race," he said, "but with tires that were maybe twenty laps older than the others' it was impossible to keep them behind. It's a shame as the race went pretty well until then; we had good pace and looked set for a pretty easy P2, but this is racing sometimes. It's three races now where we haven't had the result we maybe expect, but hopefully if we can have a bit more luck and also get rid of some of the mistakes we'll be able to get back to the front."
Felipe Massa was another driver to have a tire failure and a superb comeback to sixth.
"I am very pleased with my race which this time was truly impeccable," the Ferrari driver said. "After a fantastic start and a perfect first lap, maybe one of the best of my career, I managed to drive an attacking first stint. On lap 10, when I was right in the middle of the corner at Turn 5, my left rear tire failed and I had to pit. After this forced stop, I found myself last and from then on, I began a great charge up the order, thanks to a lot of very nice passing moves. Without that tire problem I could have made it to the podium, because today I had a good feeling with the car and both myself and Fernando had shown we could fight with those at the front."
Ricciardo, Paul di Resta (Force India) and Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber) rounded out the top 10.
The final safety car was the second of the race. Because there was so much debris on the track from the tire blowouts, the safety car was sent out from laps 16 to 21 so that the corner workers could clear things up.
Hamilton, Massa, Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) and Sergio Perez (McLaren) all had left rear tire fail. Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) had a left front tire failure. And Rosberg, Vettel and Alonso all had potential tires problems.
"What's happened today is unacceptable," Massa said. "It was very dangerous for me and all the drivers racing. It is not the first race that we've had these kinds of problems. I already had two tire problems in Bahrain. We were a bit lucky that in all the places (the blowouts) happened the driver was able to carry on and not crash," he said. "You have corners here where it would be much more dangerous and you could have a big accident."
With the German Grand Prix scheduled for the following weekend, Pirelli, the FIA and the teams had scant time to fix the tire problems. But no matter what, they had to find a solution to these unacceptable blowouts.