Silverstone: Fernando Alonso delivered Ferrari’s long-awaited first win of 2011 on Sunday when he made the most of unpredictable wet-dry conditions to triumph at a thrilling British Grand Prix.
The 29-year-old Spaniard, winner of the British race for Renault in 2006, secured Ferrari’s first win since last year’s Korean Grand Prix with a controlled drive – and some luck – to exploit the controversial revised technical regulations.
It was Alonso’s 27th career victory, drawing him alongside three-times champion Briton Jackie Stewart in the record books.
And it came on an afternoon of high drama that saw defending champion and runaway leader Sebastian Vettel’s race undone by a slow pit-stop.
Vettel finished second ahead of his Red Bull teammate and pole setter Mark Webber, with McLaren’s home favourite Lewis Hamilton in fourth after a superb rousing race.
Red Bull used team orders to stop Australian Webber passing Vettel on the final lap.
“Hold the gap, maintain the gap, keep station,” the Red Bull team told Webber, last year’s winner.
Vettel, who crossed the line over 16 seconds behind Alonso, retained his lead in the drivers’ championship on 204 points from Webber on 124 with Alonso moving up into third on 112.
“A fantastic day, fantastic day. It is a great win, we stayed calm when we had to and we did the job,” said a delighted Alonso.
Hamilton had to bang wheels with the Ferrari of Brazilian Felipe Massa at the final corner to keep his position after his McLaren team had warned him he did not have enough fuel to race at full speed in the closing laps.
On the team radio, Hamilton thanked the team for being so brave. “Thanks for the courage,” he said.
Massa finished fifth ahead of German Nico Rosberg in a Mercedes, Mexican Sergio Perez for Sauber and German Nick Heidfeld of Renault.
Seven-times champion German Michael Schumacher, 42, came home ninth for Mercedes and Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari was 10th for Toro Rosso.
Conditions for this ninth race of the season were tricky, with heavy rain falling across only half of the circuit at the start.
This caused the teams to opt for intermediate ‘wet’ tyres for the opening part of the contest.
Vettel, who had nipped past Webber at the start, led until lap 27 when he came in for his second stop and suffered a mini-disaster when the left rear wheel caused problems. This was a gift to Ferrari and Alonso, who had pitted simultaneously, but more quickly, swept out in front to take the lead for the first time followed by Hamilton in second.
Hamilton’s race was compromised later when McLaren warned him he was in danger of running out of fuel and had to ease off his most competitive pace.
This was an invitation to Webber, in fourth, to attack for a pass and required the 2008 champion to defend as best he could.
Hamilton did his best, but like an injured bird, was an easy target and Webber swept by on lap 45. (AFP)