Is anyone better behaved than the British motor racing fan? They flocked in their sell-out droves to Silverstone this weekend, most hoping to see their heroes Jenson Button or (with a tailwind and a miracle, perhaps) Lewis Hamilton winning on home turf. But even after Sebastian Vettel had taken hold of the race from the moment the red lights went out, then left both trailing far behind as he dominated in a style reminiscent of Michael Schumacher at his most imperious, they still stood and cheered him on.
"This is only my second time here but I enjoyed it so much," Vettel said after leading his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber home in another dominant Red Bull one-two, "and the last two laps people were standing up and clapping me. I have to thank every single person in the grandstands today, so thanks to them. At the time I wanted to wave and express that, but sometimes bad things can happen when you do that. When I crossed the line it was unbelievable. This is what I was dreaming of after seeing races here in the era of Mansell. It's hard to believe, and I regret a little bit that I am not an Englishman!"
Perhaps the spectators were too, because Button could only manage sixth on a day when the low ambient and track temperatures proved a disadvantage for a car that historically is less aggressive with its tyres than the Red Bull. And Hamilton had a torrid time that yielded only 16th position after a race-long battle with the Renaults of Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet, and his own ill-handling McLaren-Mercedes car.
Vettel blasted away at the start, and as Rubens Barrichello slotted in ahead of Webber the Australian's chances of victory disappeared there and then.
"Actually, they were probably lost yesterday," he said, referring to the moment when Kimi Raikkonen inadvertently blocked him during the final qualifying session. "We really needed to be on the front row at least. I just kept as close to him as I could and knew I could jump him in the first stop, but it was hard to watch Sebastian pulling away ahead of us."
Barrichello felt the same, especially as the Red Bull was leaving him at a second a lap despite carrying more fuel. It was a performance that will certainly have set Ross Brawn and his engineers scuttling to their computer-aided design tools.
Vettel made his first refuelling stop on the 21st lap without losing the lead, while Webber, who had stopped a lap sooner, duly overtook Barrichello.
"That was more like a slalom," Vettel joked. "After the start I just tried to make a gap that I'd benefit from the whole race from. That worked really well. I had a fantastic car, unbelievable. I could push more and more and I had very good tyres, very consistent.
"The second stint was not so easy, and that was when the team said to be careful. There were a lot of lapped cars which were battling each other, so it was quite tricky. I had to stay patient. I knew I had a big gap but I was always asking, what is it? How are we doing?"
The answer was, brilliantly. Vettel lost the lead to Webber for three laps when he refuelled again on the 44th lap, but when things settled down again he was still way ahead.
"There was no chance to bridge that gap afterwards," Webber said. "We are so close these days that there was no way to pull that back, so it was just a question of getting the car home. Results help, so this is an incredible injection for these guys on our home turf. I got the best I could have done today. Congratulations to Sebastian; he did a good first stint and that laid the foundation for him."
Barrichello hung on to third place, but this was not Brawn's day. He had, however, made good on his pledge to beat Button at home.
"I take a lot of pride from my performance today," he said. "Yesterday we said we thought third was the best we could have. The winds crossing the track sometimes threw you on to marbles, so it was difficult. But in any case, the Red Bull guys were the class of the field this weekend."
Button had said only the previous week that they had to be ready for the day when Brawn were not on top, and took his run to sixth place, his worst result of the year, philosophically.
"All points are important at this stage and to come away with three is therefore OK," Button conceded, "but it's been a very frustrating home grand prix for us. I had a bad start as [Jarno] Trulli was slow off the line in front of me which left nowhere to go. I tried the inside and then the outside but everyone shot by me. From ninth place it was never going to be easy. I was stuck behind Trulli for the first stint, which was really frustrating as the car felt good on the softer tyre and I was much quicker than him but couldn't overtake. We then had a long middle stint on the harder tyre and both Rubens and I struggled to get them into their working range in the cool conditions.
"On the softer rubber at the end of the race, I was able to close right up to [Nico] Rosberg and [Felipe] Massa very easily so the pace of the car was actually pretty good, but it is so difficult to overtake that I couldn't make any improvement on sixth position with only a few laps left."
At least he emerged with a still-healthy points lead, 23 over Barrichello. For Hamilton, such a brilliant winner here last year, there was only frustration after a battling race with the Renaults and BMW Saubers down at the back of the field.
"I gave it my all today," he said. "Despite fighting for the lower positions, I was absolutely on the limit for the whole race. I enjoyed my battle with Fernando [Alonso], but we didn't have the pace to get into the points. The best thing was the fans: they really gave me some consolation by cheering me on throughout the race." They are faithful to the bitter end, too.
British Grand Prix: Results and standings
*Results from the British Grand Prix at Silverstone:
1 S Vettel (Ger) Red Bull-Renault 1hr 22min 49.328sec;
2 M Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault +15.188sec
3 R Barrichello (Br) Brawn-Mercedes +41.175sec
4 F Massa (Br) Ferrari +45.043sec
5 N Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Toyota +45.915sec
6 J Button (GB) Brawn-Mercedes +46.285sec
7 J Trulli (It) Toyota +1:08.307
8 K Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari +1:09.622
9 T Glock (Ger) Toyota +1:09.823
10 G Fisichella (It) Force India-Mercedes +1:11.522
Others: 11 K Nakajima (Japan) Williams-Toyota +1:14.023; 12 N Piquet (Br) Renault +1 lap; 13 R Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber +1 lap; 14 F Alonso (Sp) Renault 1 lap; 15 N Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber +1 lap; 16 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap; 17 A Sutil (Ger) Force India-Mercedes +1 lap; 18 S Buemi (Swit) Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap. Retired: S Bourdais (Fr) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 23 laps; H Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 24 laps
Fastest lap: S Vettel, 1:20.735, lap 16.*
1 Button 64 points
2 Barrichello 41
3 Vettel 39
4 Webber 35.5
5 Trulli 21.5
6 Massa 16
7 Rosberg 15.5
8 Glock 13
9 Alonso 11
10 Raikkonen 10
Others: 11 Hamilton 9; 12 Heidfeld 6; 13 Kovalainen 4; 14 Buemi 3; 15 Kubica 2; 16 Bourdais 2.
1 Brawn 105 points
2 Red Bull 74.5
3 Toyota 34.5
4 Ferrari 26
5 Williams 15.5
Others: 6 McLaren 13; 7 Renault 11; 8 BMW Sauber 8; 9 Toro Rosso 5.
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