British GP: Alonso wins at Silverstone
Fernando Alonso pips favourite Sebastian Vettel to win his first race of the year.
Silverstone: Fernando Alonso delivered Ferrari`s long-awaited first win of 2011 on Sunday when he made the most of unpredictable wet-dry conditions to triumph at a thrilling British Grand Prix.
The 29-year-old Spaniard, winner of the British race for Renault in 2006, secured Ferrari`s first win since last year`s Korean Grand Prix with a controlled drive - and some luck - to exploit the controversial revised technical regulations.
It was Alonso`s 27th career victory, drawing him alongside three-times champion Briton Jackie Stewart in the record books.
And it came on an afternoon of high drama that saw defending champion and runaway leader Sebastian Vettel`s race undone by a slow pit-stop.
Vettel finished second ahead of his Red Bull teammate and pole setter Mark Webber, with McLaren`s home favourite Lewis Hamilton in fourth after a superb rousing race.
Red Bull used team orders to stop Australian Webber passing Vettel on the final lap.
"Hold the gap, maintain the gap, keep station," the Red Bull team told Webber, last year`s winner. Team chief Christian Hornder said Webber respected that order.
Vettel, who crossed the line over 16 seconds behind Alonso, retained his lead in the drivers` championship on 204 points from Webber on 124 with Alonso moving up into third on 112.
"A fantastic day, fantastic day," said a delighted Alonso on the team radio during the slowing down lap.
"A great win," said Ferrari team chief Stefano Domenicali.
Alonso leapt from his car at the end, as the crowd were released on to the circuit, and waved his steering wheel in celebration, banging his hand against the prancing horse logo.
"It is a great win, we stayed calm when we had to and we did the job," said Alonso.
Hamilton had to bang wheels with the Ferrari of Brazilian Felipe Massa at the final corner to keep his position after his McLaren team had warned him he did not have enough fuel to race at full speed in the closing laps.
On the team radio, Hamilton thanked the team for being so brave. "Thanks for the courage," he said.
Massa finished fifth ahead of German Nico Rosberg in a Mercedes, Mexican Sergio Perez for Sauber and German Nick Heidfeld of Renault.
Seven-times champion German Michael Schumacher, 42, came home ninth for Mercedes and Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari was 10th for Toro Rosso.
Conditions for this ninth race of the season were tricky, with heavy rain falling across only half of the circuit at the start.
This caused the teams to opt for intermediate `wet` tyres for the opening part of the contest.
Vettel, who had nipped past Webber at the start, led until lap 27 when he came in for his second stop and suffered a mini-disaster when the left rear wheel caused problems.
This was a gift to Ferrari and Alonso, who had pitted simultaneously, but more quickly, swept out in front to take the lead for the first time followed by Hamilton in second.
Vettel rejoined third ahead of Webber and Jenson Button.
Hamilton was unable to close on Alonso who opened up a 12 seconds gap by lap 38 when Vettel pitted early and, after the others had been in, emerged two laps later in second place.
Hamilton`s race was compromised later when McLaren warned him he was in danger of running out of fuel and had to ease off his most competitive pace.
This was an invitation to Webber, in fourth, to attack for a pass and required the 2008 champion to defend as best he could.
Hamilton did his best, but like an injured bird, was an easy target and Webber swept by on lap 45.
Hamilton`s McLaren teammate and fellow Briton Jenson Button failed to finish.
He came in for his final stop and emerged without a wheel nut on his front right wheel.
He was forced to cruise to a halt at the pit lane exit where he abandoned his car and, his helmet firmly on, stormed back to the pit lane without comment.
With Scottish rookie Paul Di Resta also enduring a troubled run in 15th place for Force India, there was little for the 120,000 British fans to celebrate as Alonso stayed out in front on his run towards the chequered flag.