Forumula1.com’s Hugh Podmore on the threat that the Vettel-Red Bull package now poses to Brawn.
Sebastian Vettel took the most convincing win of his fledgling career in F1 today at Silverstone. The young German was always a good bet for the race win, having superbly qualified a heavy car on pole position yesterday, but waltzed away from the field with Schumacher-esque dominance.
Red Bull were mighty pleased to have him followed home by Mark Webber, who outfought and outdrove race rival Rubens Barrichello in the Brawn. The RB5 has apparently had significant aerodynamic updates and it was the class of the field at the fast-flowing Northamptonshire track. Such was the level of the Milton Keynes team’s performance today, some pundits were suggesting that the title race had at last become a race. But others suggested that other circuits are unlikely to favour the RB5 as much as Silverstone has done.
Nevertheless championship leader Jenson Button will feel less comfortable today than he did yesterday. For the first time this season the Brit was off the podium, ending up sixth but racing Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg rather than the pace-setting Red Bulls. Button complained through the race of a lack of speed and grip, which he will have to pray returns as the season progresses. It was certainly surreal watching a man who dominated everyone two weeks back struggle to challenge the front. It was clear Brawn’s pitwall was still thinking clearly, however; the sixth place Button ended up taking was by no means a certainty and the valuable points were won by good strategy rather than anything else.
Aside from the remarkable change of fortune at the front of the pack, the race was enlivened by some notable duels. The early stages saw Fernando Alonso fighting Lewis Hamilton and then Nick Heidfeld, whose defence was top-drawer even though he had a damaged front-wing. Kubica also held off Hamilton well for a few laps. Just after that Hamilton and Alonso found themselves occupying the same piece of tarmac, and a wonderful battle ensued. The racing was entirely fair, and seeing the two old adversaries wheel to wheel down the pit straight was breathtaking. Hamilton prevailed, bravely, through Copse, but the wily Alonso used his probably superior machinery well to get past the Briton later.
After the spat which entertained the watching thousands royally, the two world champions had to resign themselves once more to their mediocre, back of the pack reality. It was in some ways telling that the best drivers in the world could put on a magnificent show, without taking themselves off, even though little was at stake. Of such stuff are legends made.
Apart from the occasional battle, little happened for large periods of the race. The only controversy was with Heikki Kovalainen and Sebastian Bourdais, who through a combination of bad luck and bad judgement came together, prematurely to end both their races.
As has been written before, Silverstone was a key date in the calendar for Red Bull to bring the fight to Brawn. They still have a mountain to climb to catch Button, but on the evidence of today, have the raw speed to start climbing. Expect a dogfight now from Vettel and Webber, as they push each other faster and faster.