2011 British Grand Prix – Click above for high-res image gallery
Unlike racing series such as IndyCar or Le Mans, the Formula One championship isn't built around any specific race. But even though each grand prix carries the same weight in the standings, some are, symbolically speaking, more important than others. While Monaco is clearly the most exciting, and emblematic of the series as a whole, we'd argue that none are as important to the teams as the British Grand Prix.
Since more teams are based in the UK than anywhere else, the race at Silverstone is considered home turf for about half the grid, not to mention the spiritual home of grand prix racing. So with the British Grand Prix unfolding this weekend, who took top honors? Follow the jump and we'll tell you.
Red Bull once again started on pole this weekend, but it was Mark Webber who pipped his teammate, defending champion Sebastian Vettel, to the top spot on the grid in Saturday's qualifying. Behind them the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa lined up in third and fourth, respectively. Jenson Button started from fifth, but his McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton was relegated to tenth on the grid following a lackluster third qualifying session. Between them started Force India's Paul di Resta, Williams' Pastor Maldonado, Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi and Mercedes GP's Nico Rosberg.
No sooner than the race began did Vettel overtake his wingman, Button overtaking Massa for fourth (only to switch back again shortly thereafter) as Hamilton moved up from tenth to sixth in the opening laps.
While the race got off to a relatively clean start despite the damp conditions, we already had our first incident before the lap counter got into the double digits as Michael Schumacher ran his Mercedes into the back of Kamui Kobayashi's Sauber, sending both into the pits. Schumacher got a fresh nosecone, and exiting on dry tires, subsequently set the fastest lap time. He was later handed a drive-through penalty for the collision, though. Meanwhile, Kobayashi nearly ran into another car as he left the Sauber pit box, damaging another team's equipment as he tried to avoid another crash.
Lap 14 saw each McLaren pass its Ferrari rival, Button overtaking Massa for fifth place and Hamilton passing Alonso for third. The maneuvers left Vettel and Webber still in the lead, Hamilton in third, Alonso fourth, Button fifth and Massa sixth. Di Resta followed in seventh ahead of Schumacher in eighth, Sutil ninth in the second Force India car and Rosberg in tenth in the second Mercedes.
Alonso retook third from Hamilton on lap 23, followed a few laps later by a collision between Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi and Force India's Paul di Resta that saw Buemi shred his left-rear tire. After failing to make it back to the pit lane, he retired trackside.
The second round of pit stops then ensued, the vital action coming on lap 28 as Vettel and Alonso pitted from lead and third respectively. A jammed rear wheel gun, however, delayed Vettel's return, allowing Alonso to rejoin in the lead with Hamilton close behind. Vettel was then stuck in third, Webber fourth, Button fifth and Massa sixth, as Rosberg, Perez, Heidfeld and Alguersuari rounded out the top ten, having yet to make their second stops.
Vettel's wheel-gun problem wouldn't be the last of the day, however, as Button suffered a more catastrophic failure upon pitting on lap 39, leaving pit lane with his front-right wheel unsecured. He was forced to retire trackside after a promising start.
The ensuing laps saw little significant action until Hamilton regained position on his longtime rival, Felipe Massa.
As the final laps wound down, Alonso remained firmly in the lead with an insurmountable gap over Vettel. Webber, meanwhile, stayed on his teammate's tail in third, but didn't manage to get past. An equally thrilling battle had Massa similarly glued to Hamilton, and in a bit of deja-vu from the 2008 championship that saw the two fight to the bitter end for the title, the cars made contact on the last corner, sending pieces flying and Massa off wide as Hamilton beat him to the finish line to take fourth.
All in all, a thrilling way to end a race, and despite Massa's disappointment, it was a fantastic result for Ferrari, which won its first race of the season. In the process, Alonso eliminated the chance of Ferrari failing to win a grand prix for the first time since the 1993 championship, and on the back of his second-place finish at the last round in Valencia, promoted Ferrari into position alongside McLaren as a real challenger to Red Bull's dominance.
The results, however, further entrench Vettel's lead in the standings at 204 points, Webber behind him with 124, Alonso now third with 112, and the McLaren duo tied at fourth and fifth with 109 apiece. The combined scores leave Red Bull even further in the lead for the constructors' title with 328 points to McLaren's 206 and Ferrari's 129. Tune in again in two weeks for the German Grand Prix from the Nürburgring as the championship nears the halfway mark.