Brought to you by TheJudge13 ‘on track correspondent’: James Parker
The Mercedes of Nico Rosberg avoided disaster in a drama filled British Grand Prix to take his second win of the season. With a hot track temperature of 34°C, the race ended up being dominated by one aspect – tyres. 2nd was a resurgent Mark Webber who recovered from 14th to claim a podium, whilst 3rd place went to the ever consistent Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.
Both Rosberg and Webber had poor getaways from 2nd and 4th, with Vettel leapfrogging the German into turn 1 behind Hamilton, whilst Webber dropped like a stone into the pack and made slight contact with the Lotus of Grosjean – dropping him to 14th on lap 1.
Massa went from 11th to 5th by the third corner and was tucked up behind Sutil who was running in 4th, whilst his team-mate, Alonso, was recovering from an average start taking Button into Stowe for 9th place.
This was followed by a move to take Grosjean for 8th place the following lap out of Luffield, whilst a recovering Di Resta (disqualified from Qualifying for an underweight car and starting 21st) was already up to 18th place and looking quick.
The race started to settle down, and by lap 5 Hamilton had eeked out an advantage of 1.9 seconds from the chasing Vettel. Webber was in no mood to sit amongst the pack and by lap 7 he was past Button into 11th going into Stowe.
It was the following lap at which the drama was about to start however, and the first of many tyre delamination’s through the afternoon. Coming out of the fast turn four, race leader Hamilton experienced a spectacular left rear delamination which forced him to navigate over three quarters of the lap back to the pitlane on three tyres.
Two laps later, the Ferrari of Felipe Massa experienced exactly the same scenario coming out of turn four, spinning on to the tarmac run off – he dropped to 22nd and dead last.
This resulted in mass panic up and down the pit lane; all the teams decided to take their first pit stops early as a precaution for the two incidents that had occurred. Lap ten saw Grosjean pit for the harder compound tyre, as did Alonso. A lap later, 4th and 5th place men Sutil and Raikkonen took the option to switch to hards, as did Ricciardo, Massa and Webber – the latter also taking the time to change his nosecone after the earlier contact with Grosjean during the start.
After the first stops, Alonso found himself tucked up behind the Lotus duo on lap thirteen. In the space of the next two laps the Spaniard performed a fantastic piece of driving. First he took Raikkonen going into copse for 8th and then Grosjean for 7th into Stowe. A lap later, the Ferrari man cruised up to the back of the longer running Vergne and utilised the DRS benefit on the wellington straight to take 6th into Brooklands.
Rosberg and Vettel were the last to pit on lap thirteen and fourteen, re-joining in 1st and 2nd – the RedBull team were quick to notify Vettel to “take it easy” after finding cuts on the Germans rear tyres after his first stint. A third delamination then occurred only seven laps after Hamilton’s. Jean Eric Vergne had yet to pit and was running in 7th when going into the fast Stowe corner his left rear too let go. Vergne’s tyre shredded it’s carcass and threw debris into the path of Raikkonen’s Lotus. Debris also hit Raikkonen’s helmet.
At this point in time, the safety car was called out to clear up the numerous shards of carbon fiber and other debris lying on the circuit. All the race engineers were telling their drivers to stay off the kerbs. Pirelli was also quick to recover the shredded rubber for tests.
After five laps behind the safety car, on lap twenty one, the race was once again restarted with Vettel doing a great job to create space between him and Rosberg. At this point Webber had managed to get himself up to 9th and made no mistake in passing Perez for 8th into Brooklands. He then set about chasing Grosjean and Ricciardo who were 6th and 7th respectively. By lap twenty-eight Ricciardo, who was feeling the pressure behind, took Grosjean into Brooklands for 6th, whilst Webber went and replicated the exact same move on lap twenty-nine.
2nd stops started on lap 30, with the majority of the top 10 opting for the harder tyres – other than Webber who chose the medium compound. Sutil decided to go 3 laps longer than both Alonso and Raikkonen, pitting on lap 33, but found himself re-joining behind the pair who enjoyed the undercut on fresher tyres.
Rosberg, Di Resta, Vettel and Hamilton were the last to pit on lap 34, 36 and 37 with the top two once again shadowing each other’s strategy and holding position. The final part of the race was starting to hot up with numerous fights up and down the field. Massa was struggling after earlier damage from his puncture and found himself getting passed by Perez, Grosjean and Button all in the space of one lap.
Further down, Hamilton and Di Resta in 10th and 11th were having a monumental scrap for the minor points. On lap thirty-eight they ran side by side through Brooklands and Luffield before Hamilton conceded going into Copse. The following lap however, the Mercedes man took no prisoners and made a move stick on the Wellington straight – maximising DRS.
More drama and a 2nd safety car was to come however. Race leader Vettel (by some margin) lost drive as he braked for Club corner and coming on to the pit straight the could not get any gears forcing him to pull up on the pit straight. That released Rosberg into the lead on lap forty-two. It was an incident which caused the first DNF for Vettel this season and a safety car was released to clear his car.
The safety car created an opportunity for Rosberg, Webber and Alonso to pit for a 3rd time, whilst 3rd place man Raikkonen was told to stay out on older rubber – something the Finn challenged. Alonso dropped to 8th and Webber 5th.
The race restarted on lap forty-five, leaving a seven lap dash to the flag. In the space of two laps Webber took both Ricciardo for 4th and Sutil for 3rd and set about chasing the Lotus of Raikkonen. Perez was the next man to suffer a rear left delamination on while going down the Hangar straight and he subsequently retired from P6 – a frustrating end to a solid race for the Mexican.
Alonso was making similar progress on fresh rubber – passing Button, Ricciardo and Sutil to elevate himself up into 4th. Hamilton took advantage of Alonso’s aggressiveness and followed the Spaniard through, passing Button, Ricciardo and Sutil to jump up to 5th.
Raikkonen was really struggling with wear and was left helpless to the attacks into Stowe of Webber, Alonso and Hamilton who were on much fresher tyres than the frustrated Lotus man.
Up front however Rosberg had a hard charging Webber bearing down on him, the latter sniffing a possible victory. By lap fifty-two, Webber was within 9 tenths of a second but was left too far back to challenge Rosberg down the Hangar straight which left the Mercedes man to claim a very good victory.
The misfortunes of others no doubt helped Webber and Alonso to secure 2nd and 3rd; Alonso making the most of Vettel’s retirement by claiming 15 points and the last podium position. 4th was Hamilton who managed the two safety car periods beautifully after dropping to 19th after his puncture on lap 8.
5th was a frustrated Raikkonen who was lamenting the decision not to pit during the second safety car period, whilst Massa – another puncture victim recovered to 6th. 7th and 8th were a solid Sutil and Ricciardo whilst the unlucky Paul Di Resta came from 21st on the grid to finish 9th. The Sauber of Hulkenberg rounded off the top 10 to claim his first points since Bahrain.
An action packed and exciting race but the big question will be about the tyres. Were they overheating? Was it a case of kerbs cutting the tyres? Were the tyres being run to soft?
Pirelli will be investigating the cause of the delaminations over the coming days but, with focus on driver safety something must be done soon.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery had this to say: “There have obviously been some issues with rear-left tyre failures which we have not seen before. We are taking the situation very seriously and we are currently investigating all tyres to determine the cause as soon as possible, ahead of the next Grand Prix in Germany.
At the moment, we can’t really say much more until we have fully investigated and analysed all of these incidents, which is our top priority. However, we can exclude that the new bonding process, which we introduced at this race, is at cause for the tyre failures we have seen today.
There might be some aspect to this circuit that impacts specifically on the latest version of our 2013 specification tyres but at this point we do not want to speculate but will now put together all the evidence to find out what happened and then take appropriate next steps should these be required.”
Perhaps the answer is the Kevlar belted tyres but as Brawn said after the race, Pirelli does not have the means to run proper tests and therefore cannot develop tyres properly. Is this the beginning of the end of the test ban?
Drivers Championship Standing
Constructors Championship Standing