Under dark clouds and immense expectation, Lewis Hamilton has won the British Grand Prix, his margin over the nearest driver being over 60 seconds. Joining Lewis on the podium were Nick Heidfeld of BMW and Rubens Barrichello of Honda. Both Ferrari’s suffered from lack of pace and poor strategic decisions from either the team, the drivers or both. Heikki couldn’t capitalise on his maiden pole position from yesterday and finished in fifth ahead of Fernando Alonso.
Rain had fallen on Silverstone all morning and the race started with a damp track and all drivers on wet tyres (commonly called intermediates). From the line Heikki Kovalainen had a good start and led the field into Copse, but further behind Lewis Hamilton had a superb start and troubled his Finnish team mate around the first lap. As the duo exited the first corner, Hamilton was very quick on the throttle (as he was in Malaysia and France) and almost clipped the back of Kovalainen. The Finn had a wiggle as he applied his throttle and showed bravery as he defended his position down to the Becketts corners.
Behind the leading pair all sorts of cars were spinning around in circles and skating over the grass and gravel. Mark Webber found himself looking in the wrong direction on the exit of the Becketts Complex and had to wait until the field had passed before he could spin his Red Bull around. Kazuki Nakajima had an off and Felipe Massa pirouetted his Ferrari in similar fashion.
David Coulthard’s final British Grand Prix didn’t last long either, with a synchronised slide off the track with Sebastian Vettel at the Priory corner. Both drivers retired on the spot, their cars beached in the gravel. And it wasn’t long into the first stint before Massa was spinning again, this time down at the final Woodcote corner. From looking at the camera views, he appeared to have some issue with applying even the smallest amount of throttle.
By lap three though, it was all over for Kovalainen as Hamilton made his move going into Stowe. Lewis managed to pass his team mate and wandered off into the distance. Meanwhile Mark Webber started to make his comeback through the field following his earlier spin and was soon pressuring the top ten again.
Heikki’s troubles were worsened after a spin going into Abbey allowed Kimi Raikkonen through into second and Webber continued to make up places in the poor conditions, giving those around him some driving lessons in the process. Unfortunately Adrian Sutil didn’t get one and the cameras just about picked up the German bouncing sideways over the gravel, across the track and finally in the gravel again. Sutil simply lost the back of his Force India as he braked in Abbey and he became a passenger as it slid over the water.
At the front the lead was yo-yo-ing back and forth and on some laps Hamilton looked comfortable while on others, Raikkonen looked immensely quicker. Mark Webber was the first of the scheduled pitters though, followed by Kovalainen and then Alonso. The following lap both Hamilton and Raikkonen pitted together, the Briton getting out ahead of the Finn. Interestingly though, McLaren put fresh intermedite tyres on Hamilton’s car, but Ferrari left Raikkonen on the same set.
Straight away Lewis Hamilton pumped in some fast laps, all this despite his tyres being colder than Raikkonen’s. The gap was improved and Hamilton took more control over the race. As the rain fell heavier Hamilton was able to judge the grip levels better and the Briton looked relatively comfortable at the front.
Nelson Piquet, who was enjoying a great run at Silverstone, passed his experienced team mate Fernando Alonso and once again, looked to be much improved over his form from earlier in the season. Unfortunately for Raikkonen, his gamble of remaining on the same tyres didn’t pay off and along with Alonso who did the same, ended up losing a lot of time over the cars ahead. It was at this point that Nick Heidfeld came into his own and made some superb passes. And as Heikki eased his way back past the troubled Raikkonen, Heidfeld seized the opportunity and passed both of them.
Honda, who started well down the field, were also looking very handy, the team having switched both drivers to full wet tyres at their stops and Rubens Barrichello making full use of them. While the rest of the pack gambled on intermediates, Barrichello was passing cars left, right and centre. Jenson Button was lapping quickly as well, but the slippery track eventually got the better of him and an off at Club saw Button retire. Robert Kubica also suffered a similar fate at Abbey and retired. Honda were very much in contention though on the full wets, and Rubens soon found himself in second.
However, despite Rubens driving maticulously well, the team had to pit the Brazilian again; there was a problem with the fuel rig and little gas went into the Honda. But Barrichello’s experience paid off and after a few blindly quick laps he had enough of a gap to pit and rejoin in third, losing only one place to Nick Heidfeld.
Felipe Massa really struggled with his Ferrari all day and suffered spin after spin. Nelson Piquet also ended his afternoon early and after a mature drive, he unravelled it with an off and beached his Renault in the gravel. Kazuki Nakajima, another rookie in the field, also had a fair few trips into the scenery, but the Williams pilot was able to rejoin the track after each excursion and the Japanese driver would eventually finish in the points in eighth position.
The final few laps were all about the battle behind the leaders, with Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Heikki Kovalainen all running in close proximity. Kovalainen spent most the last few tours attacking Alonso, but the experienced double world champion defended well until Heikki grabbed the bull by its horns and made a pass stick. Raikkonen had already made his move was in a good fourth place.
Nico Rosberg had a good race by all accounts and considering that he started from the pit lane with a suspension problem that dogged him all weekend. The German driver was in a point-paying position until the final stint when the Ferrari, McLaren and Renault sorted their acts out. Team mate Kazuki Nakajima also had a good run but a few offs and lack of experience allowed the trio of faster cars past. The Williams drivers finished in eighth and ninth.
Felipe Massa finished last of the remaining runners and will want to very quickly forget about this weekend. Raikkonen too will want to forget about his British Grand Prix. Although he managed to collect a few points, Kimi’s Ferrari was good for a podium had he or the team not decided to stay on the same set of tyres.
Rubens Barrichello celebrated his podium-placing and dedicated the race to his son, who after hearing his father had qualified poorly, prayed for rain. Heidfeld also raced well and is hopeful his qualifying woes are now behind him. Again, experience paid dividends with Kubica sliding off the road one too many times. The Toyotas too ran well with Jarno Trulli collecting two more points. Glock had a series of offs and even had Rosberg contact him in the final stage, the Williams driver having to pit for a new nose. Timo went off a few times as well, but a twelfth place finish from twelfth on the grid is not bad considering his experience and the difficult conditions.
Of course, Hamilton was ecstatic to win in front of his home fans and brings himself right back into the championship hunt. Nick Heidfeld saved the day for BMW and Ferrari leave Silverstone wondering why they made the choice to stay on the same tyres. Red Bull will head to Germany for the next race knowing that they have made substantial progress on the RB4, and Webber in particular should be delighted with his pole from yesterday. But an early mistake from the Australian meant he couldn’t capitalise on his front row grid slot. Despite all this though, Webber drove a fine race and provided fans with much entertainment.
This may (or may not) be the penultimate race at Silverstone, but it sure has given the championship a good shake with the top three drivers all the sharing the same amount of points. The second half of 2008 is sure going to be very interesting.