Since hosting the first ever Formula 1 World Championship race back in 1950, Silverstone has been a firm favourite among the fans, consistently providing quality races, and this weekend was no exception. While it was perhaps not the most exciting race of the season, qualifying provided plenty of drama due to heavy rainfall, which meant ticket holders were controversially advised not to turn up at the circuit.
Current championship leader Fernando Alonso sailed his way to pole position in a flooded and heavily disrupted qualifying session on Saturday, pushing Red Bull’s Mark Webber in to 2nd place on the grid.
A wet Q1 saw McLaren driver Jenson Button qualify in just 18th place, 13 places less than he managed last year.
The rained picked up considerably during Q2, causing havoc on the track, with cars constantly aquaplaning, leading to a few near crashes. Standing water made it impossible to continue, and the session was halted with just over 6 minutes to go. With Sergio Perez sitting at the top of the time sheet and Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa currently outside the top 10, there were mixed reactions to the prospect of qualifying being abandoned and the race starting in the current positions.
However, an hour and a half later, the rain subsided, the track was cleared and the session restarted. At the end of Q2,in a reversal of fortune, Perez found himself at the back of the pack, most likely due to his adventurous choice of intermediate tyres on such a slippery surface. Romain Grosjean suffered some misfortune of his own at the end of the session. While he managed his way into the top 10 shootout, a spin into the gravel area at the end of the second session meant he was unable to compete in Q3.
Webber looked set to take pole position in the final qualifying session, but in the closing moments Alonso set a faster time, taking the pole at the race he won last year. Behind them were Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, with the rest of the top 10 being made up of Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen, Pastor Maldonado, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean. However, after a grid drop penalty for Hulkenberg due to a gearbox change, Paul di Resta found himself inside the top 10.
In a change to the expected weather, race day remained dry throughout, no doubt a relief to drivers and spectators alike. There were also the usual batch of ‘celebrities’ who turn up on one day of the year to feign interest in the sport and get their face on the telly.
Vitaly Petrov found himself having car problems before he could even line up on the grid after his engine failed, meaning he was unable to start the race and was left watching the action from the garages.
The race itself began with Fernando Alonso pulling ahead of Mark Webber for the lead, while behind them Paul di Resta’s race was quickly cut short following contact with Romain Grosjean’s Lotus. After suffering a puncture, the floor of the Force India car was damaged to the point where the Scot was forced to retire from his second home race.
Alonso held his lead for the majority of the race, at one point opening up the gap to over 15 seconds. However, using a different tyre strategy to Webber behind him, he opted to change to the soft tyres for the last stint of the race, perhaps a move that cost him dearly. Webber quickly caught up with the Ferrari, overtaking him on lap 48, just 4 from the end of the race.
Not far behind them current world champion Sebastian Vettel had climbed from 5th place on the the grid up to 3rd but found himself unable to catch the Spaniard in front of him.
Felipe Massa obtained his best result of the season, finishing 4th, fighting off 5th place man Kimi Raikkonen right until the end. After a slow start to the season he will no doubt be happy to have silenced his critics with this result. Raikkonen’s team mate Romain Grosjean finished 6th, despite having broken his wing in the early collision with di Resta and falling down the rankings. This keeps Lotus 3rd in the Constructors Championship.
Sauber did not have such a good race though, with multiple unfortunate circumstances meaning they scored no points on Sunday. Sergio Perez found himself out the race after being pushed off the track by Pastor Maldonado, a man who has frequently found himself subject of stewards enquiries. After pitting at the same time, Perez attempted a pass on Maldonado, who appeared to drive towards him, leaving him nowhere to go but off the track. The Sauber sustained such damage that it was retired, leaving Perez furious, telling the BBC that Maldonado was “a stupid driver” who “doesn’t respect other drivers.” Maldonado limped back to the pits and was able to finish the race, but was fined 10,000 Euros afterwards in response to the incident, although has insisted he had no choice but to make the manoeuvre.
Kamui Kobayashi provided further upset for the Sauber team after braking too late as he came into the pits, knocking down 3 mechanics at the garage. None were seriously injured and Kobayashi returned to the track, narrowly missing out on the points after finishing 11th. He was fined 25,000 Euros for what the FIA called an “unsafe manoeuvre in the pits”