Rosberg first, Alonso third in thrilling British Grand Prix

Vettel forced to retire while leading in race that saw four rear-left tire blowouts

Nico Rosberg (C) celebrates his victory beside second placed Mark Webber (L) Fernando Alonso (R).
Nico Rosberg (C) celebrates his victory beside second placed Mark Webber (L) Fernando Alonso (R).Tom Gandolfini (AFP)

The Silverstone circuit in the United Kingdom is a favorite among Formula 1 drivers, thanks to its high-speed corners and revamped layout. But it was the circuit itself that turned out to be the biggest enemy at Sunday’s British Grand Prix, as its kerbs claimed not one, but an incredible total of four left-rear tire blowouts during the race.

Having started from pole position, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was the first to fall foul of the problem, losing his left-rear tire on just lap eight of his home race. Then it was Ferrari’s Felipe Massa who sufferred the same fate, on lap 11, with Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso becoming the third victim of exactly the same problem just a few laps later.

That brought out not just the safety car, but also a fleet of track-sweeping trucks, which looked more than a little incongruous trundling along the side of the circuit as the field sped past, tucked up behind the safety car.

The main beneficiary of all this chaos was reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, who managed to avoid the rubber-ripping kerbs and keep his Red Bull out in front.

But disaster struck for Vettel approaching the 40th lap of the 52-lap race, when he lost drive due to a gearbox problem and was forced to retire, parking his car on the start-finish strait. The failure marked the German’s first retirement of the 2013 season.

That brought out the safety car once more, and heralded a thrilling six-lap conclusion to the incident-packed race.

After the restart, McLaren’s Sergio Pérez, from Mexico, became the fourth victim of a rear-left tire blowout, just as Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was set to overtake him. Pérez made it back to the pits, but was forced to retire.

That sent Alonso — who, along with teammate Felipe Massa, had a dismal day in Saturday qualifying — on something of a late charge, storming past the McLaren of Jenson Button and the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen to slot him into third place.

In the end it was the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg that took the checkered flag, with the Red Bull of Mark Webber — who this week announced he would be leaving Formula 1 at the end of the 2013 season — coming in a close second. Alonso took the final spot on the podium, in third place, with Hamilton, who had at one point fallen all the way back to last place, coming in fourth.

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