Mark Webber responded to the Red Bull front wing controversy in the best way imaginable by taking a commanding British Grand Prix victory ahead of Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button.
Polesitter Sebastian Vettel's chances of victory were ruined by a first-lap puncture, although he recovered to seventh, and there was further controversy over stewarding decisions after a contentious penalty for Fernando Alonso left the Ferrari outside the points.
Webber made a much better start than his teammate and reached Copse corner first, despite Vettel's best efforts to squeeze him. Vettel then lurched off the road at Becketts with a right-rear puncture, potentially the result of a slight touch from Hamilton's McLaren at the first corner.
Felipe Massa was also trundling back to the pits with flailing rubber – he had been side by side with his slow-starting Ferrari teammate Alonso through the first corner and wheel banging at Becketts corner left the Brazilian with a puncture as well. Webber therefore led from Hamilton, with this pair rapidly dropping quick-starter Robert Kubica (Renault) in third, who had Rosberg's Mercedes and Alonso all over the back of him.
Pitting slightly earlier than Kubica did not work for Alonso, whereas running a little longer did the trick for Rosberg. Eager not to lose more time, Alonso went down the outside of Kubica into Vale corner on lap 17, and completed the pass by nipping over the kerbs and cutting the first apex of Club. He then sprinted away after Rosberg, while Kubica was assured that Alonso would be ordered to let him back through. That became a moot point three laps later though, when Kubica retired with a differential problem.
The stewards therefore ruled that Alonso should take a drive-through penalty, a decision announced just before the safety car came out so that debris could be cleared following contact between Adrian Sutil (Force India) and Pedro de la Rosa (Sauber) that left chunks of the latter's rear wing deposited on various straights. With Alonso having to take his penalty immediately after the restart, he tumbled straight to the midfield.
The safety car was a lifeline for Vettel, who had made little progress up to that point, but then started carving through the traffic with a string of spectacular passes, including one on Michael Schumacher. Sutil – who had also put a bold move on Schumacher after the restart – proved Vettel's toughest rival, and it took many laps of tough battling before the Red Bull driver finally muscled through to take seventh on the penultimate lap.
Far away from this excitement, Webber delivered a masterclass at the front of the field. Hamilton managed to tag along until the pitstops, but thereafter Webber was unstoppable, reeling off fastest laps whenever required and leading by 6s before easing off at the end.
Rosberg returned Mercedes to the podium with a strong run to third, despite losing a barge board when sweeping round the outside of the yet-to-stop Jaime Alguersuari's Toro Rosso mid-race. The German finished just ahead of Button, who surged through from 14th to fourth thanks to a great first lap and staying out much longer than most before his tyre change.
Rubens Barrichello gave Williams its second straight top five finish, with Kamui Kobayashi following him home for Sauber's best result of the year.
By the time Vettel was clear of Sutil that pack was too far ahead to reach, so he had to settle for seventh, followed by countrymen Sutil, Schumacher and Nico Hulkenberg.
Alonso's race got even worse when he sustained a puncture in a brush with Tonio Liuzzi's Force India, leaving him 14th, one place ahead of Massa, who needed a further set of new tires after spinning on the exit of Luffield late on.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS
The British Grand Prix
52 laps; 306.747km;
Pos Driver Team Time
1. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1h24:38.200
2. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 1.360
3. Rosberg Mercedes + 21.307
4. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 21.986
5. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth + 31.456
6. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 32.171
7. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 36.734
8. Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 40.932
9. Schumacher Mercedes + 41.599
10. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth + 42.012
11. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes + 42.459
12. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 47.627
13. Petrov Renault + 59.374
14. Alonso Ferrari + 1:02.385
15. Massa Ferrari + 1:07.489
16. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth + 1 lap
17. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth + 1 lap
18. Glock Virgin-Cosworth + 1 lap
19. Chandhok HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
20. Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
Fastest lap: Alonso, 1:30.874
Driver Team On lap
Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 45
De la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 30
Kubica Renault 20
Di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 10
World Championship standings, round 10:
1. Hamilton 145 1. McLaren-Mercedes 278
2. Button 133 2. Red Bull-Renault 249
3. Webber 128 3. Ferrari 165
4. Vettel 121 4. Mercedes 126
5. Alonso 98 5. Renault 89
6. Rosberg 90 6. Force India-Mercedes 47
7. Kubica 83 7. Williams-Cosworth 31
8. Massa 67 8. Sauber-Ferrari 15
9. Schumacher 36 9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 10
10. Sutil 35
11. Barrichello 29
12. Kobayashi 15
13. Liuzzi 12
14. Buemi 7
15. Petrov 6
16. Alguersuari 3
17. Hulkenberg 2
All timing unofficial