Alonso tires of silver and takes top prize in Britain

Red Bull pit mishap opens door to maiden 2011 triumph for Ferrari

Fernando Alonso maintained his slender chances of claiming a third world championship title in winning the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on Sunday. The Spanish Ferrari driver- who equaled Jackie Stewart's 27 career victories to join the British great on fifth in the all-time list of number of GP victories- started the race in third behind the all-conquering Red Bulls of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel on a track that was described by Force India's British driver Paul di Resta as "virtually dry on the grid but completely wet as you get to Brooklands."

Webber started on pole, as a Red Bull driver has at every race so far this season, but was swiftly overtaken by his teammate Vettel, who had won six of the eight Grands Prix of the season so far. However, Alonso's qualifying time of just 0.117 seconds slower than Webber made plain that the Red Bulls would have their work cut out to keep the double world champion at bay. In Valencia, Alonso harried Vettel and Webber from fourth on the grid and finished second, dissecting Vettel in first and Webber in third. "We are definitely closer than ever," Alonso said after the Valencia race. "I'm sure that we can put some more pressure on them."

In the end, a combination of Alonso's improved pace and a serious mishap by the Red Bull pit team, which failed to properly secure a wheel nut on Vettel's car on lap 27, allowing the Spaniard to sneak out of the pit lane ahead of the German, afforded Alonso, and Ferrari, a first win of the season. The McLaren of Lewis Hamilton had pushed Alonso hard before that incident, the Briton overtaking the Spaniard on lap 15.

But Alonso fought back, deploying his DRS in the area of the track between Village and Brooklands to ease past Hamilton, a maneuver the 2008 champion would not be able to avenge as he was ordered to save fuel during the latter stages of the race, allowing Webber to surge past him on lap 47 after the McLaren driver had fought valiantly to hold on to second ahead of Vettel. Ultimately, a successful final pit stop on lap 39 allowed Alonso to open up a 12.6-second lead over his rivals that he did not relinquish on his way to a maiden victory in the 2011 season, on the 60th anniversary of Ferrari's first win.

"I knew we had enough pace to fight for the victory," Alonso said. "We knew our opportunity would come later in the race. After passing Hamilton [...] I attacked the Red Bulls. From now on it will be like that. All we can do is try to win every race, be aggressive and keep our strategy at the maximum."

"I think you have to accept fair and square that Ferrari beat us today. It's hard to say how much we lost but surely we lost the lead. I think we had quite a cushion [before the first pit stop]," said Vettel, who still leads the driver's championship on 204 points from Webber on 124. Alonso leapfrogged Hamilton and Jenson Button into third, on 112 points.

Fernando Alonso wins his first Grand Prix of the 2011 season.
Fernando Alonso wins his first Grand Prix of the 2011 season.VALDIN XHEMAJ
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