Untouchable Vettel romps to Silverstone victory (British Grand Prix review)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel scored his second win of 2009
Sebastian Vettel scored his second win of 2009

Sebastian Vettel obliterated his rivals at Silverstone, leading team mate Mark Webber home in a one-two finish for the rampant Red Bulls.

Jenson Button was unable to deliver the result the home crowd wanted – he slumped to his worst finish of the year, sixth, which was no better than where he qualified.

Bad start for Button

In the run-up to the race the Brawn team were talking about how warm weather and sunshine was what their car needed. They didn’t get it.

Vettel took off from pole position at a blistering pace. With Webber third, bottled up behind Barrichello, the leader left the rest of the field behind at over a second per lap.

Meanwhile Button’s race started slowly. It was nothing like as bad as his team mate’s start at Istanbul, the Briton losing only three places, but that left him ninth.

He quickly set about working on Felipe Massa’s Ferrari, relieving the Brazilian of eighth position on the second lap. But that left him stuck behind Jarno Trulli, and the Toyota proved a much tougher prospect. Not only did Button fail to find a way past Trulli, but the pair came in for their first pit stops together, and left the pits in the same order as well.

Webber sets up Red Bull one-two

Further ahead, Vettel’s heavier fuel load meant that by the time he came in for his pit stop all his nearest rivals had been and gone. He didn’t lose the lead at his first pit stop and returned to the track just ahead of Massa, who was running a long first stint having started 11th.

A significant change of position had occurred a little further back. Despite running a short first stint he was able to jump ahead of Barrichello and take second, but even one-third of the way into the race his prospects of catching his team mate looked remote.

Raikkonen also got himself back ahead of Button via the first pit stops, but with six laps’ less fuel on board was doomed to lose the position again later.

Hamilton struggles at home

The other British driver had made little progress from his starting position of 19th, and spent his first stint stuck behind the more heavily-fuelled Robert Kubica. McLaren had once again banked on a light-fuel strategy giving Hamilton a chance to make up places but either the MP4-24 or the driver lacked the wherewithal to do it (probably the former).

Hamilton spent the middle part of the race doing battle with the Renaults. Eventually the more heavily-fuelled sister McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen made his pit stop and returned to the track in front of Hamilton.

In a repeat of last year (though not in competition for the lead of the race) Hamilton slotted down the inside of Kovalainen at Stowe. Sebastien Bourdais now embarked on an over-optimistic lunge to pass at Vale, succeeding only in removing his own front wing and damaging Kovalainen’s car. Both limped back to the pits, resumed racing, and then returned once more to the pits and retirement.

This was the only dramatic point in an otherwise processional affair. Button found good pace on his final set of tyres and reeled in fifth-placed Nico Rosberg at over a second per lap. But once he got within a second of the Williams he couldn’t find any way of getting close enough to mount a challenge.

Massa climbs to fourth

Webber’s long second stint meant he was at least able to lead a few laps, thus denying his team mate the ultimate result of a win from pole position with fastest lap and leading every lap. But the dominance of Vettel’s victory cannot be under-stated: it was an emphatic, crushing drive, and if he’s got a few more of those up his sleeve this championship isn’t over by a long shot.

The finishing order made it clear that a long first stint was the way to go: Massa finished fourth after starting 11th, while Kazuki Nakajima ended the race 11th having started a lightly-fuelled fifth.

Trulli and Raikkonen rounded out the points finishers with Timo Glock ninth and Giancarlo Fisichella making the top ten, once again demonstrating Force India’s progress.

Nelson Piquet Jnr, 11th, made a rare finish ahead of team mate Fernando Alonso, with Robert Kubica’s BMW sandwiched between the two. Behind Nick Heidfeld’s BMW was the first of the McLarens, Lewis Hamilton, a miserable 16th, the team point-less for a fourth consecutive race. Adrian Sutil was the last finisher, having started from the pit lane after his qualifying crash.

Vettel’s win sets him up for his home race in three weeks’ time. Another performance like this and the championship many had written off will be alive once again.

Driver of the day

My driver of the day was Sebastian Vettel. It may seem a bit obvious to pick the pole sitter and race winner but he stamped his authority on this race from the word go. Not only did he blow his rivals away, but he sent a message to his own team that he, and not Mark Webber, is the driver to back for the championship.

But an honourable mention must go to Felipe Massa, who turned a poor starting position into an excellent finish.

Who was your driver of the day?

Read more: Rate the race: British Grand Prix