SILVERSTONE, England, (Reuters) – Fernando Alonso won the British Grand Prix yesterday for Ferrari’s first victory of the season at the same circuit where 60 years ago they had enjoyed their first success in Formula One.
The win, gifted to the Spaniard by Red Bull after world champion Sebastian Vettel’s hopes were scuppered by a wheelnut problem at his second pitstop, was the 27th of Alonso’s career and lifted him level with the great Jackie Stewart in fifth position in the all-time lists.
Vettel finished second, denied his seventh win in nine races but still on the podium for the 11th time in a row and with his overall lead extended from 77 to 80 points.
It was Ferrari’s 216th win since that first with Argentina’s ‘Pampas Bull’ Jose Froilan Gonzalez on July 14, 1951, and their first since last October, when Alonso won in South Korea.
Alonso had driven Gonzalez’s historic Ferrari around the circuit for two laps before the race and the old magic crossed the generations.
“Now 60 years later in the same circuit, with the same atmosphere and the same passion, winning again in a red car. I’m very proud…it made a special day,” said the double world champion.
“Every grand prix is special but winning in historic places, and in this fantastic circuit like Silverstone and the tradition in England with the culture of Formula One, is even more special.”
Vettel now has 204 points to team mate Mark Webber’s 124 and Alonso’s 112 with 10 races remaining.
Australian Webber, who had started on pole position, finished third after trying hard to pass his team mate on the penultimate lap while turning a deaf ear to repeated radio orders to maintain position.
So-called ‘team orders’ have been declared legal this season, but both Red Bull drivers still faced angry questions afterwards about the situation.
Asked whether he had agreed with the team’s call, Webber said: “I’m not fine with it, no.
“If Fernando retires on the last lap, we are battling for victory. So I was fighting to the end. Of course I ignored the team because I want to try and get another place. Seb was doing his best, I was doing my best.”
Webber said it had been a one-way conversation with the team, with all the speaking – four or five messages – directed at him while he remained silent.
“I can understand Mark’s frustrations but we cannot give away a load of points,” said team boss Christian 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.”
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton entertained the fans by roaring from 10th on the grid to fourth, banging bodywork in a furious battle with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, who was forced wide, at the final corner.
Alonso took the lead on the 28th of the 52 laps when he pitted right behind Vettel, who had grabbed the lead off the grid. As the German’s crew wrestled with the rear left tyre, the Spaniard slipped past and was gone.
“It’s hard to say how much we lost but surely we lost the lead. I think we had quite a cushion at that stage,” said Vettel, who has still dropped only 21 points out of a possible 225, of the pitstop drama.
“I think you have to accept fair and square that Ferrari beat us today…I think it shows us that we have to keep working and pushing very hard.”
McLaren’s Jenson Button’s home-race jinx continued with the 31-year-old’s hopes also wrecked by a wheelgun when he was waved away before the right front nut had been secured 12 laps from the end.
With the wheel wobbling wildly, he parked up at the pit lane exit and walked back to the garages without speaking to reporters.
The Briton has never yet stood on the F1 podium at Silverstone in 12 attempts.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Germany’s Nico Rosberg was sixth for Mercedes with Mexican Sergio Perez in the points for Sauber and Nick Heidfeld eighth for Renault.
Michael Schumacher finished ninth for Mercedes, after colliding with Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi, while Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari made it three races in a row in the points with Toro Rosso.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo made his race debut for Hispania, finishing 19th and last.