Nico Rosberg Wins British Grand Prix Dominated by Exploding Tires
Nico Rosberg navigated an extremely difficult track and a field filled with disabled cars to win the British GP at Silverstone. For the third time this season, Mercedes dominated the front row, this time with Lewis Hamilton in pole position alongside Rosberg. While Hamilton was able to hold off Sebastian Vettel, who started in third, for a few laps, Hamilton’s rear left tire disintegrated on Lap 7; Vettel then effortlessly led the GP for the majority of the race. While Hamilton was able to get back to the pits on his own accord, by the time he made it back onto the track he was dead last. Seeing Hamilton struggle to make his way back to the top was only one of the many events that made the British GP one of the best races of the season.
A few grid changes reordered the starting line shortly before the race commenced. Although Force India’s Paul di Resta proved to be a formidable opponent in qualifying, his car ended up being 5kg underweight, and he was relegated to last place. Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde made a last minute gearbox change and replaced di Resta at the back of the grid.
Race start was characteristically exciting, compounded by a scuffle between Mark Webber (who suffered from a typical slow start) and Romain Grosjean. The impact damaged Webber’s front wing, but he would stick with it until he replaced it with a fresh unit on lap 11. Hamilton was able to achieve a commanding lead over Sebastian Vettel, to the point where Vettel was unable to land within the 1-second DRS zone that would have allowed him to catch up. It was looking fantastic for the Brit until his tire shredded, sending him limping back to the pits and onto a fresh set of hard tires.
Only a few laps later, Felipe Massa’s left rear tire exploded, and he too crawled back to the Ferrari garage for a set of new shoes. By Lap 14, the top three consisted of Vettel, Rosberg, and Adrian Sutil, of all people. Behind them, Lotus teammates Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean battled for fifth place, held by Toro Rosso’s Jean-Éric Vergne. As with Hamilton and Massa, Vergne suffered from a failure of the left rear tire, showering the shadowing Räikkönen with tire shreds and carbon fiber bits. The accident triggered a safety car while the track could be cleared of debris.
Team transmissions between drivers and pit crews during this team expressed concern about tire punctures, and advised the drivers to stay away from clipping corners too much. By this time, di Resta had climbed from 21st to 11th place, while Hamilton was glad that his 50-second deficit from Vettel in first was closed as a result of the safety car’s presence; he had made his way to 14th, while Massa was almost at the rear, in 18th. The safety car was recalled on Lap 21, and the race was back on.
The next few laps were relatively calm, punctuated by a minor incident with Esteban Gutiérrez that led to a yellow flag warning. Lap 36 saw Vergne succumbing to injuries to his floor that began with the tire puncture. Lap 41 saw the most incredible leader change of the race, as Sebastian Vettel unexpectedly lost control of his gearbox. Vettel haters had plenty to be ecstatic about, and so did the crowd. Since Hamilton retired early, spectators had little to cheer for as Formula 1’s golden boy set hot lap after hot lap in his comfortable lead. Rosberg suddenly found himself in first place as a result of Vettel’s first retirement of the season, and the safety car’s triumphant return bunched up the pack again.
McLaren suffered a harsh blow during Lap 46 when Sergio Pérez became the last victim of a blown tire, and permanently took refuge in the garage. With just a few laps to go, Mark Webber overtook Räikkönen for second place in one of the best moments of the season, and even gave Grosjean a run for his money in the final seconds of the race. Webber finished 0.765 second behind Rosberg, placing the Aussie on the podium just days after he announced he would be leaving F1 for LMP1 racing next year. Fernando Alonso finished third, giving him a much needed bump in the drivers’ standings.
An investigation into the massive failure of the Pirellis this race is almost guaranteed, so look for that in the coming weeks. The next race of the season is held at the Nürburgring for the German Grand Prix on July 7. The race will be broadcast on NBC Sports at 4:30 AM PST.