Lewis Hamilton the British bright spot as Red Bull fall out again at Silverstone
Record crowds came out at Silverstone for Sunday's British Grand Prix – but there was no home win for the bubbling crowd to celebrate, despite the best efforts of Lewis Hamilton.
The McLaren driver, whose team was out of sorts in only qualifying 10th on Saturday, looked to be on an inspired mission as the Silverstone lights went out with half the track drenched by showers and the new start-finish straight bone dry.
But despite running in second at one point, Hamilton had to settle for fourth – although that was a definite consolation following a dramatic last-lap tangle with Felipe Massa that saw the record 122,000 crowd roaring with joy.
The fast-closing Brazilian clattered his Ferrari into Hamilton at the final turn before running off the track, leaving the Brit to pip him to the line by the matter of a few thousandths of a second.
It was the undoubted highlight of a cracking race that saw Fernando Alonso take the chequered flag to breathe some life into a championship that has so far been all about Sebastian Vettel, who came home narrowly ahead of third-placed Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber.
You may also want to watch:
But for Hamilton, it was all about the drive from the British support.
'That really was as close as it was going to get,' smiled Hamilton. 'It was crazy. Coming here, knowing the support we had, I've never seen so many people here. The support is far greater than any other driver gets anywhere else and I felt it spurring me on.
- 1 Man and woman found dead in home
- 2 Neighbours' horror after two people found dead in 'peaceful close'
- 3 Man, 41, charged with Pat Holland's murder as human remains found
- 4 When are GCSE and A-level results out and how fair will grades be?
- 5 Man arrested on suspicion of murder after woman dies in village
- 6 Reward of £20,000 offered after theft of performance car worth £150,000
- 7 Villagers in shock after woman dies in suspected murder
- 8 Hardware store owners retiring after more than 60 years
- 9 Norfolk seaside holiday park battles Shell over solar panel plans
- 10 Woman who bit an officer among eight people arrested in town
'I had a good start, made some places up but unfortunately towards the end I had to save fuel. Then on the last lap they said now you can push and I was like 'thanks, after I had let Massa catch me up' but I was not going to give him that position.'
While Hamilton failed to make the podium, he at least has the consolation of having won his home grand prix in the past – while his team-mate once again lucked out at Silverstone, where a record 315,000 crowd saw the weekend's action.
Jenson Button's McLaren was running well in fourth – only for a new front right wheel to go on to his car without a nut to hold it on in his second pit stop.
The Brit failed to make it out of the pit lane as the wheel threatened to roll free of his car, before Button pulled over and out of the race – leaving him without a podium in 12 British Grand Prix attempts.
'It is very disappointing,' said Button. 'It was in front of my home crowd and I was enjoying the race, my pace was good and I caught up with Lewis, Sebastian and Mark. It was looking sweet, I would have come out alongside Mark after my pit stop. Anyone who had pace near the end had a chance of a podium and I definitely had pace.
'The guy on the front right lost a wheel nut and he went to get another one but as he turned I think the lollipop man thought we were good to go.
'I'm sorry for the fans that we couldn't do more. This seems to be the way of it at British Grands Prix for me, but I'll try again next year.'
Remaining Brit Paul di Resta saw a fantastic qualifying performance scuppered by a pit stop problem of his own, with his Force India crew expecting team-mate Adrian Sutil for a stop instead – the delay in getting the right tyres on the Scot's car effectively turned sixth on the grid into a 15th finish.
It was pole-sitter and 2010 winner Webber who was the big loser from the start, as Vettel's better traction saw him sail into Abbey and into the lead.
But with the Australian falling back it was Alonso who capitalised on Vettel's poor pit stop – a rarity given Red Bull's usual slick production.
The Ferrari was quick and comfortable at the front for the remainder, leaving the late controversy to come in the Red Bull garage.
Last year, Webber's iconic cry of 'Not bad for a number two driver' greeted his impressive win around Silverstone – and seemingly nothing has changed since, after team principal Christian Horner ordered the Australian to maintain the gap to Vettel in front, rather than turn his quicker pace into a fight for second.
Not that one-time Attleborough-based star Webber agreed with his team, or listened to them.
'I am not fine with it, no,' said Webber after the race, having been given up to five messages from his team on the subject. 'If Fernando retires on the last lap we are battling for victory. Of course I ignored the team as I want to try and get another place.
'I tried to do my best with the amount of conversation I had (over the radio). One-way conversation obviously. I wasn't doing much talking back. There were a lot of messages coming to me but I was still trying to do my best to pass the guy in front.'
The decision was easy for Horner: 'We did not want to see our drivers in the fence at some time in the last two laps, which is how it would have ended up.'
As for Vettel, he did not see a problem with the Milton Keynes outfit's decision: 'Mark was faster, he tried pass me, I could stay ahead,' said the defending champion.
'The last thing you want is to do something bad for the team. If it was the other way around, of course I would like to pass him but I don't see what is the big problem. To me at this stage the controversy is quite funny.'
Red Bull reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo came home at the back of the classified finishers for Hispania on his F1 debut.
Despite Alonso's victory, Red Bull extended their lead in the constructors' championship, while Vettel now sits 80 points clear of Webber in the drivers' standings.