Mark Webber could have been forgiven had he said to the Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, on his slow-down lap yesterday: "If Vettel wants my front wing, he can have it now."
Instead, after Horner had said to him "Now maybe we'll get a smile from you", what Webber actually said was: "Not bad for a No 2 driver!"
Indeed, it wasn't. On a day when luminaries such as Fernando Alonso showed how not to drive, Webber was immaculate as he sped to a key victory. Sebastian Vettel's chances disappeared at the start, the moment Webber got great traction on the supposedly dirty side of the grid and hung tough as his German team-mate tried to intimidate him into backing off going into Copse corner.
When Vettel had to open the door, it also let Lewis Hamilton get alongside, and a light touch from the McLaren driver's left front wing endplate resulted in the puncture that sent Vettel slithering off the road as his rivals streamed past, and then heading for the pits. He was joined there by Felipe Massa, who had been hit by his team-mate Alonso in a prelude to a ghastly day for Ferrari."There wasn't contact that I know of," Hamilton said. "But I did notice just now a little bit of damage to the front corner of the endplate. But it must have been very fine, if there was contact."
There was a strong feeling that this was poetic justice, as Vettel had been given Webber's new front wing on Saturday after his own had broken. Sympathy for the man in pole position was in short supply in many areas of the paddock.
Hamilton challenged Webber mightily on that first lap, but it was soon clear that nothing was going to frustrate a richly deserved success for the Australian. He was in a class of his own, as was the indefatigable Hamilton, who maintained his world championship lead with a gutsy run to second that meant Webber could never fully relax.
Ferrari's undoing came when Alonso overtook Renault's Robert Kubica for what at that stage was seventh place (in the middle of the first pit stops) by sliding off the road at Club corner and gaining an advantage by cutting part of it. Had he surrendered the place all would have been well, and he would have been in a position later to challenge Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button for third place. Instead, his resultant drive-through penalty coincided with the safety-car period, dropping him from fourth to 15th. The Ferraris set the fastest laps on fresh tyres, which both Alonso and Massa required close to the finish, but they were classified only 14th and 15th.
A crucial safety-car period came on lap 28 after Adrian Sutil had hit the back of Pedro de la Rosa's Sauber on the pit straight, leaving debris on the track. That threw Vettel a lifeline as he gradually made his way up the order, passing fellow countrymen Nico Hulkenberg and Michael Schumacher until he came behind Sutil, who was running seventh.
By that stage Vettel's tyres were very worn and the Force India driver kept him at bay for lap after lap as Vettel struggled for grip. Finally the German made it through, after a robust move had resulted in a collision in the new Arrowhead section of the track.
This, however, was Webber's day, and he was some 7sec ahead of Hamilton before he wound things down to take the flag by 1.3sec. Hamilton was in turn 20sec ahead of Rosberg and Button, who had saved his tyres beautifully in a long opening stint which took him from 14th on the grid in the second McLaren to what was then third place. While the Englishman had no answer to Rosberg, his performance backed Hamilton's in earning McLaren far more points than they might have been expected to garner after their troubled outing in Friday's practice sessions.
Webber had been more tightly wound before the start of the race than his father Alan had ever seen, but as he began to relax and let the success sink in he revealed, in reference to his partner: "Ann said to me at the start of the year that if I didn't do anything else this year I'd got to win Monaco and the British Grand Prix.
"This is very special for me to win here as I've won at Silverstone in Formula Ford and Formula 3000. Sir Jack Brabham won here in 1960 and there's been a lot of amazing grands prix won here, so it's very, very special to win here in the UK."
There was an edge to his comments, however, as he savoured a satisfying reversal of the previous day's fortunes and added: "There's a bloke upstairs every now and then. Obviously yesterday I wasn't massively in favour of the decision [to give his new front wing to Vettel] and I'm sure we'll have some interesting chats tomorrow [at the post-race debrief]. On the parade lap some drivers offered me front wings, but I said I'd stick with what I've got. Today went well for me. The first corner was pretty straightforward, I made a very good start, and I was very keen to make it my corner. It worked out well for me."
And not, the unspoken subtext suggested, for Vettel.
If Webber showed how well he could bounce back from adversity, yesterday his team learnt even more about his determination. It remains to be seen if he will be the favoured one in Hockenheim, where further potential embarrassment lies in wait for Red Bull in Vettel's home race since Webber is now their world championship points leader and, in theory, ought to get priority.
"I should do," Webber said, his face set. "It was a unique situation yesterday, the first time the team had only one component for each of us, but I'd never have signed a contract for 2011 if I had known it would be that way. Let's see how it goes in the future."
Silverstone race details
FIA Formula 1 British Grand Prix, Silverstone (52 Laps): 1 M Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1hr 24min 38.200sec;
2 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren 1:24:39.560;
3 N Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:24:59.507;
4 J Button (GB) McLaren 1:25:00.186;
5 R Barrichello (Br) Williams 1:25:09.656;
6 K Kobayashi (Japan) BMW Sauber 1:25:10.371;
7 S Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1:25:14.934;
8 A Sutil (Ger) Force India 1:25:19.132;
9 M Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:25:19.799; 10 N Hulkenberg (Ger) Williams 1:25:20.212;
11 V Liuzzi (It) Force India 1:25:20.659; 12 S Buemi (Swit) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:25:25.827;
13 V Petrov (Rus) Renault 1:25:37.574; 14 F Alonso (Sp) Ferrari 1:25:40.585; 15 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 1:25:45.689; 16 J Trulli (It) Lotus F1 at 1 Lap; 17 H Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus F1 at 1 lap; 18 T Glock (Ger) Virgin Racing at 2 laps; 19 K Chandhok (India) HRT-F1 at 2 laps; 20 S Yamamoto (Japan) HRT-F1 at 2 laps. Not Classified: 21 J Alguersuari (Sp) Scuderia Toro Rosso 44 laps completed; 22 P de la Rosa (Sp) BMW Sauber 29 laps completed; 23 R Kubica (Pol) Renault 19 laps completed; 24 L di Grassi (Br) Virgin Racing 9 laps completed.Drivers' championship:
1 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren 145pts;
2 J Button (GB) McLaren 133;
3 M Webber (Aus) Red Bull 128;
4 S Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 121; 5 F Alonso (Sp) Ferrari 98; 6 N Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 90; 7 R Kubica (Pol) Renault 83; 8 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 67; 9 M Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP 36; 10 A Sutil (Ger) Force India 35; 11 R Barrichello (Br) Williams 29; 12 K Kobayashi (Japan) BMW Sauber 15; 13 V Liuzzi (It) Force India 12; 14 S Buemi (Swit) Scuderia Toro Rosso 7; 15 V Petrov (Rus) Renault 6; 16 J Alguersuari (Sp) Scuderia Toro Rosso 3; 17 N Hulkenberg (Ger) Williams 2; 18 P de la Rosa (Sp) BMW Sauber 0; 19 H Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus F1 0; 20 K Chandhok (India) HRT-F1 0; 21 L di Grassi (Br) Virgin Racing 0; 22 B Senna (Br) HRT-F1 0; 23 S Yamamoto (Japan) HRT-F1 0; 24 J Trulli (It) Lotus F1 0; 25 T Glock (Ger) Virgin Racing 0.
Manufacturers' championship: 1 McLaren 278pts; 2 Red Bull 249; 3 Ferrari 165; 4 Mercedes GP 126; 5 Renault 89; 6 Force India 47; 7 Williams 31; 8 BMW Sauber 15; 9 Scuderia Toro Rosso 10; 10 Lotus F1 0; 11 HRT-F1 0; 12 Virgin Racing 0.