Silverstone, England – Nico Rosberg from Mercedes won Sunday's British Grand Prix after avoiding tire issues that had plagued several drivers and then capitalizing on Sebastian Vettel's gearbox problem late in the race.
Four drivers, including Rosberg's teammate, Lewis Hamilton, and Felipe Massa from Ferrari, suffered left-rear tire failure during the 52-lap race at Silverstone Circuit. Hamilton started on the pole and led the way before his tire blew on lap 8. Massa's incident occurred two laps later. McLaren's Sergio Perez and Jean-Eric Vergne from Toro Rosso experienced the same problem as well later in the event.
Vettel, the three-time defending Formula One champion and current points leader, took over the top spot when Hamilton had his mishap. The Red Bull driver appeared to be on the way to his fourth win of the season, but his gearbox failed with 11 laps to go, which put him out of the race. Rosberg grabbed the lead and then held off Vettel's teammate, Mark Webber, at the finish by 0.7 seconds.
Rosberg scored his second win of the season and the third of his F1 career. He won the May 26 Monaco Grand Prix. The German also has claimed the pole in three grand prix this season. He started second in this event.
"It's a very special day," Rosberg said. "Our team has done such a fantastic job. We've had good momentum going right now, and we're progressing all the time. We're massively quick in qualifying and getting faster and faster in the races. I think today we had the fastest race car. So it's a very special day for me."
Rosberg's win, though, was nearly taken away when race stewards determined he failed to slow down to a sufficient speed between turns 3-5 under yellow flags during the mid-stages of the event. Shortly after the race concluded, the Mercedes driver had to meet with stewards to discuss his actions. He was issued a reprimand and did not receive any penalties.
The safety car was deployed twice during the race, with the first deployment taking place on lap 16 for extensive clean-up of tire debris on the track. The last one occurred when Vettel came to a stop on the track due to his faulty gearbox.
Webber's second-place finish comes three days after his announcement that he will leave F1 at the end of the season and join Porsche's new sports car program in the Le Mans 24 Hours and World Endurance Championship in 2014. Webber won last year's British GP. Webber started fourth but struggled on the opening lap, as he fell to 11th.
"I didn't have a clue what happened at the start," Webber said. "We've had good starts in the last few races. That was frustrating, but the (team) did a great job. Obviously, there were a lot of people who had issues with their tires. We were lucky not to have any issues. It was a clean race and good strategy. I would have liked a few more laps at Nico, but he deserved to win. He was quick all day."
Fernando Alonso from Ferrari finished third and trimmed Vettel's lead from 36 points to 21.
"It was a good race for us," Alonso said. "Not having any problems with the tires, we have to consider ourselves lucky. And with Sebastian's problem, we were lucky to recover some points."
It was the first time Vettel retired from a grand prix since September 2012 in Italy, where he suffered a mechanical problem with six laps to go. He had finished no worse than fourth in the first seven races this season.
"It's quite disappointing to retire when we were only a few laps from the end," Vettel said. "We had a gearbox issue. I think the fifth gear broke and damaged the rest of the gearbox as well, so it was not possible to carry on."
Hamilton fell to last in the field after he had limped back to pit road for new tires, but the Englishman came storming back in front of his home crowd to finish fourth.
"With Lewis, I feel sorry for all of the British fans," Rosberg said. "It would have been a great race for Lewis in front of his home crowd. It was a massive disappointment for him, but that's racing sometimes. When Sebastian stopped, I wasn't disappointed by that one. I'll be honest and won't lie about that."
Pirelli, which is the tire supplier for F1, received criticism for the tire it used in this race. Hamilton was the most outspoken about the issue.
"The safety is the biggest issue; it's unacceptable," Hamilton told the BBC. "We had a tire test to improve the tire and to have four blowouts is unacceptable. It's only when someone gets hurt that someone will be doing something about it. I think it's a waste of time talking to the FIA, and if they don't do anything that says a lot about them."
Kimi Raikkonen from Lotus took the fifth spot, while Felipe Massa drove his Ferrari across the line in sixth.
Force India's Adrian Sutil finished seventh, followed by Daniel Ricciardo from Toro Rosso and Sutil's teammate, Paul di Resta, who had to start the race from the rear of the field after his car failed post-qualifying inspection on Saturday. His car was underweight. Nico Hulkenberg from Sauber completed the top-10.