British GP 2011: as it happened

12.40pm – Hello and welcome to forumula1.com’s live coverage of the British Grand Prix of 2011.

The news here is the weather, which is a halfway house in every sense of the phrase. Jenson Button just told the BBC that half the track is extreme wet and the rest is bone dry. Paul di Resta concurs.

Meanwhile, Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed that the diffuser regulations will go back to what they were in Valencia following all the confusion and chaos this weekend. In short, after qualifying, Red Bull seem not to have been unduly affected by the ban on the off-throttle blown diffusers, Ferrari have even gained some pace, and McLaren have suffered.

As a result of that and changeable conditions in qualifying yesterday, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton start fifth and tenth respectively.

Mark Webber starts from pole and is looking to outwit Sebastian Vettel for the first time this season. Word on the grapevine is that he might actually prefer the RB7 in its current form, matching Vettel as he did in the early part of last season.

12.48pm And on his way to the grid Sergio Perez has taken a tour of the Northamptonshire countryside and wiped out an advertising hoarding to boot. Just goes to show how tricky conditions are out there.

12.53pm The anthem has been played and the activity on the grid is building to a climax. There seems to be a real festival atmosphere and the weather is not dampening spirits at all. The drivers must be anxious concerning their choice of tyres – it could make or break their afternoon.

12.55pm And the grid is now clearing.

12.57pm “As a driver you want to have a wet race or a dry race,” opines David Coulthard. A nightmare for the drivers, potentially, these conditions.

12.58pm Button is on the inters, as are Webber, Massa and Alonso. That’ll make it a four-stop afternoon for them, then, considering a lot of the track is dry, and the intermediates won’t last long.

12.59pm And they’re off on the parade lap. The top ten are all on inters, we are hearing now.

1pm The British Grand Prix is go! And Webber has lost out to Vettel off the start! And Button has got up to fourth with Alonso third. Hamilton is up to seventh after only a few corners! It is soaking wet around Woodcote and the inter was the best choice clearly…

Hamilton is up to sixth past Paul di Resta!

Lap 2 The order is Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Button, Massa…but Massa has passed Button now, and now so has Hamilton!

So the order is now Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Massa, Hamilton, Button, di Resta, Kobayashi.

Lap 3 Webber’s start was not as good as Vettel’s, simply, and Vettel is now running away with it in the manner to which we are very accustomed. We have lost Heikki Kovalainen to a gearbox issue, apparently.

Lap 4 These tyres will clearly not last if they are pushed. Lewis Hamilton is not being told to calm down by his team; in fact, they are telling him to pass Massa. But Hamilton goes wide at Brooklands! But he comes back on without losing a position.

Lap 5 Michael Schumacher, in ninth, says two or three more laps until dry tyres can be put on. The McLaren drivers agree, according to Ted Kravitz. DRS is enabled now.

Lap 6 Sutil is tenth followed by Maldonado, Rosberg, Perez, Heidfeld and Buemi, Petrov and Alguersuari. The Renaults have really been affected by this diffuser business. And, as if to confirm, Alguersuari passes Petrov just before the end of the lap.

Lap 7 Alonso is matching Vettel in terms of pace – he’s just seven seconds behind him, is the only problem.

Perez is threatening Rosberg for 12th. The Mexican closes up under braking but the Mercedes has great traction.

Lap 8 Alonso is closing up on Webber, he’s around a half a second behind him now and much quicker at this stage. Word is that Button has worn his inters down now. Hamilton’s look terrible on the slow-mo replay.

Lap 9 Kobayashi, in eighth, spins and loses two places.

Lap 10 Hamilton is managing to match Vettel’s pace, believe it or not, while Alonso is now harrying Webber.

Schumacher has been in the wars again…maybe his was the contact with Kobayashi! Hamilton is right on the back of Massa!

Lap 11 Schumacher took Kobayashi out, it transpires. Yet another lazy misjudgement from the German ex-great.It’s under investigation by the stewards. Webber has woken up, meanwhile, and sets a fastest lap.

Lap 12 Schumacher changed to dries when he changed his nose after the contact, and now he’s setting quick times. Button is in, changes to slicks, and he is out just ahead of Rosberg.

Lap 13 Hamilton went off again at Brooklands, trying to pass Massa, who has no grip left at all. Webber and Alonso both pit, in very close attendance…and drama here…Alonso is held as Hamilton pits. Kobayashi was released unsafely when he pitted and clouted some of Force India’s equipment.

Lap 14 Vettel pits from the lead and emerges ahead of Webber, no problems. Massa does too and has been jumped by Hamilton. Massa suffered because Alonso was given preference there. Button swarms all over the back of Massa now! What action!

Lap 15 Button passes Massa superbly, down at Club! It was a battle right down the Hangar Straight! And Hamilton is passing Alonso at Copse! The British crowd love that!

Lap 16 This is exciting stuff here as Webber starts to chase down Vettel, with Hamilton speeding behind the both of them! A bit dull to start with, but now it has livened up a lot. Schumacher has got a stop-go for his banzai attack on Kobayashi, who may be in trouble of his own for his team’s pit indiscretion.

Lap 17 Alonso is not finished with Hamilton yet. He’s catching him now, presumably as the tyres come to him. The order is Vettel, Webber, Hamilton, Alonso, Button, Massa, di Resta, Sutil, Rosberg, Perez, Kobayashi, Heidfeld, Alguersuari, Maldonado, Buemi, Petrov, Schumacher, Barrichello.

Lap 18 As soon as I say it’s exciting it goes off the boil.

Lap 19 Heidfeld passes Kobayashi, using DRS and Alguersuari goes past too! And now the Catalan is pushing Heidfeld hard!

Lap 20 Maldonado is through past Kobayashi…and then the Japanese nails him back for 13th! Great stuff.

Lap 21 Yes, Kobayashi has been punished with a stop and go for that unsafe release. It was his fault really, he missed a gear on the getaway.

Webber looks as though he may be catching Vettel, but it could all be smoke and mirrors. Vettel just stretches his legs whenever he is threatened.

Lap 22 Alonso is quick. He has set the fastest lap and is getting closer all the time to British hero Hamilton who, rather incredibly, is in third after starting tenth.

Lap 23 Schumacher passes Petrov for 15th. All sad, really, considering how great Schumacher used to be and how promising that Renault was. Alonso is going to take that third place back from Hamilton, I reckon.

Lap 24 Hamilton driving a very wide McLaren…but Alonso is past down the Wellington straight. It was a foregone conclusion, that, with the type of pace Alonso has at the moment.

Lap 24 McLaren are out in the pits for Hamilton. He is in and out again into some clear air. He has to push now…Kobayashi’s engine has blown. According to the BBC it looked hot when he stopped for the penalty.

Lap 25 Paul di Resta pits, and it’s chaos. They weren’t ready for him and looked to have the wrong tyres out. Big delay for the Scot.

Lap 26 Alonso is flying and could yet win this grand prix.

Lap 27 Webber pits as do Button and Massa…and Alonso has stayed out. He is going so quickly it is unbelievable – and sets a 1m35.5.

Lap 28 Buemi has a puncture after contact with a presumably frustrated di Resta! And Alonso and Vettel pit…and Vettel has a problem! It is slow! And Alonso is past! And Alonso is out in to the lead, ahead of Lewis Hamilton! Vettel is now third! Lovely stuff!

Lap 29 Hamilton is bearing down on Alonso! Will the Englishman be close enough for DRS down the Wellington straight? No he isn’t, sadly for the gathered masses shouting themselves hoarse. 11 seconds was the length of the delay at Vettel’s stop. He will have to fight for this win like he hasn’t had to for the others.

Lap 30 Any chance of Alonso being passed by Hamilton seems to have evaporated. The Spaniard is fast fast fast now, and Vettel is reeling in the Englishman.

Lap 31 It’s more than three-tenths a lap now that Vettel is taking out of second-placed Hamilton. The German will not want to allow Alonso to get too far ahead though and so will want to dispose of Hamilton as soon as he can.

Webber is not out of this either, and the fact that Hamilton is slower is backing Vettel in third into the Australian who is fourth.

Lap 32 Vettel opens his wing, but Hamilton is opening his too as he passes di Resta. It must be delaying the inevitable, though, as Vettel is a fair bit quicker than the McLaren man.

Lap 33 Alonso is scampering away out front as this battle rages behind them. A fastest lap now from him. Vettel so close but not close enough down the Wellington straight this lap…is he going to get him down the old pit straight? No, nor down the Hangar Straight. Great defence, this, although somewhat futile you’d have thought.

Lap 34 Hamilton watching his mirrors as the Red Bull dances around behind him like an angry wasp. It is lively entertainment, but may be handing Alonso the race.

Lap 35 The order is Alonso, Hamilto, Vettel, Webber, Button, Massa, Rosberg, Perez, Sutil, Petrov, Heidfeld, Schumacher.

Lap 36 Is Vettel cooling his tyres? In combat, he may not be as efficient as he is when he can control his pace. Hamilton mighty in defence down the old pit straight! The very edge of the rulebook! And Vettel pits, accepting that he cannot pass him. It is a strategic move to get Vettel into clear air.

Lap 37 Ted Kravitz says that Vettel’s tyres were worn by the combat with Hamilton.

Lap 38 Ferrari must be rubbing their hands with glee at this. Hamilton now pits but he cannot get out ahead of Vettel. And so there it is; what could not be done on track by Vettel is done in the pits.

Lap 39 Vettel is speeding round now. He has to catch and undercut Alonso when the Ferrari man pits.

Vettel comes up behind Massa, who he has to pass. And he does so, rather easily.

Lap 40 And Alonso is in, as is Button. Alonso is out ahead of Vettel by quite a margin! And Button has mysteriously pulled over out of the pits…he may be minus a wheelnut. Yes, the right front was not on properly. What a shame. He is out of the race.

Lap 41 This looks foregone, now, unless Vettel can catch and beat Alonso. Webber may catch Hamilton too…’you’re racing Hamilton,’ Red Bull tell Webber.

Lap 42 Massa pits, finally. “Everything fine for Fernando? Ok, bring the other guy in,” says Martin Brundle caustically on the BBC, satirising Ferrari’s position.

Lap 43 Hamilton is now only 2.4 seconds ahead of Webber. It would be a nice bonus for the crowd if he could stay ahead, but I don’t think he can. Hamilton is being told to save fuel, into the bargain.

Lap 44 Webber is now 1.5 seconds in and with Hamilton locking up severely towards the end of the last lap, “how can he defend against this Red Bull?” asks David Coulthard.

Lap 45 The order is Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton, Webber, Massa, Rosberg, Perez, Heidfeld, Schumacher, Alguersuari, Sutil, Petrov, Barrichello.

Lap 46 Webber is now deploying DRS and is through past Hamilton down the Wellington straight. They nearly come together into Brooklands but Webber does not have any real difficulties.

Lap 47 Massa is being told by Rob Smedley that Hamilton may not finish the race on the fuel that he has. This may not be true.

Lap 48 Credit to Schumacher, now in ninth after a series of issues at the start. His team mate Rosberg is fending off Perez for sixth.

Lap 49 Alonso has a 17 second lead. It seems that Vettel lost the race in the pits and when he was behind Hamilton.

Massa took three and a bit seconds out of Hamilton on that lap. Hamilton is demanding information from McLaren about his fuel and how fast he can go.

Lap 50 Webber has not given up on second – he is only a couple of seconds behind Vettel – and neither has Massa on fourth. The Brazilian took another three seconds out of Hamilton on the lapt lap, the gap is only two seconds. This will be a grandstand ending to what has been a very entertaining grand prix.

Lap 51 Massa is close, it not as close as Webber and Vettel! Vettel cools his tyres and Webber is on his gearbox!

Lap 52 Alonso start the final lap but the action is behind him! The Red Bulls are so close! And there’s the team call now from Horner…’maintain position, Mark.’ How sad.

FERNANDO ALONSO WINS THE BRITISH GRAND PRIX

But it is all kicking off behind him! Vettel is second with what must be a narked Mark Webber behind him…

And Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa come together at Vale…and as they round Club they are neck and neck with Massa off the track…wow! Combat. And Hamilton crosses the line fourth! Incredible stuff!

Will the stewards get involved there? Maybe. But for now, Massa is fifth, Rosberg sixth, Perez seventh, Heidfeld, Perez and Alguersuari completing the top ten.

A fantastic end to a fantastic race. A deserving winner in Alonso. He was very quick when he needed to be, even if he was aided somewhat by his nemesis Hamilton and a mistake from Red Bull.

That’s all from me, thanks for following.