Hostilities resumed at Silverstone

  • By: Tom Millard
  • Last Updated: June 30 2013, 12:53 BST

Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso can continue their high-intensity tussle at this weekend's British GP.

Alonso and Vettel are the drivers to focus on at Silverstone
Alonso and Vettel are the drivers to focus on at Silverstone

The margin of Sebastian Vettel's victory in Montreal, and the manner in which it was achieved, will have given Red Bull's rivals plenty of cause for concern over the past two weeks.

Vettel's lights-to-flag success, his third of the season, saw him open up a 38-point lead at the top of the drivers' standings.

But his closest title rival, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, will be less concerned about the championship deficit than the ease with which the German was able to convert his pole position into an 11-second lead by the time the first pit-stops had played out at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

By that stage Alonso was still stuck in fifth place, a legacy of his struggles in qualifying which has seen him line up on the third row of the grid in each of the last three races.

And with three cars between himself and the Spaniard, Vettel, having broken the back of the race, was able to throttle back and look after his tyres.

Alonso managed to fight past Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber and the Mercedes pair of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton with characteristic tenacity, but Vettel had the race won long before that and the Ferrari's whittling down of the gap late in the race was an irrelevance.

The Scuderia's team principal, Stefano Domenicali, claimed that "it would've been a different story" had Alonso been on the front row alongside Vettel, but that's precisely the point: only by being a full second quicker in qualifying would he have had a shot at the race win.

So as things stand Vettel heads to Silverstone as the clear favourite to take another step towards his fourth consecutive title, and Betfred have been brave in offering the German at a stand-out 2/1 for another win.

By going shortest on Hamilton and Rosberg their compiler is clearly of the opinion that Mercedes' qualifying form could be enough to lock out the front row and make a race of it with the Red Bulls and Ferraris.

We agree with the first part of that but not the second.

The Silver Arrows pairing have taken four poles between them in the seven races but crucially the other three Q3 sessions were disrupted by rain.

In Australia, Malaysia and Canada the Mercs looked to have the measure of Vettel at various points but at each event the German was able to find time at the end of the session in tricky conditions.

Hamilton and Rosberg are 5/2 and 4/1 respectively to keep the team's perfect dry-track record intact, but the 11/10 offered by Paddy Power and Ladbrokes on a Mercedes pole position combines the pair at a better price.

Unfortunately for the British fans, however, we can't see Hamilton clinging on to a promising starting position.

The 2008 Silverstone winner dealt well with the demands of the Montreal track to keep his tyres in good shape but this circuit puts far more stress on the rubber.

The lateral loadings through corners such as Copse, Stowe and the Maggots/Becketts complex are among the biggest challenges on the calendar and it's unlikely that the former champion will be able to fend off Vettel and Alonso across a race distance.

There's a case to be made that Vettel, too, could suffer from wear problems given the struggles he had at the Circuit de Catalunya, which has arguably the most similar configuration to this track.

But in contrast to Silverstone, which punishes the rears, the Barcelona track placed the limitation on the front-left tyre, a situation which particularly hamstrung the Red Bull.

Vettel and Webber were forced to lift significantly in Turn 3 in order to lessen the heat build-up on the loaded outside-front, losing them a chunk of lap time in a race won convincingly by Alonso.

This track, however, is less abrasive than the Spanish circuit and should pose fewer problems to those marginal on their rubber.

The RB9 was also the class of the field at a similarly rear-limited track with high-energy corners in Malaysia in April, so Vettel should be able to extract close to the maximum from his machinery this weekend.

From Ferrari's point of view, this circuit should minimise the disruption caused by their own Achilles' heel of a poor qualifying pace.

A track on which it was already easy to overtake, Silverstone now (unnecessarily) has two DRS zones, meaning the grid line-up will be all but irrelevant to the outcome of Sunday's race.

This is probably the explanation for Alonso's quote of just 11/4 and a reason why we like the Vettel/Alonso dual forecast with Ladbrokes at the same price.

The two pre-eminent drivers of their era are both in career-best form at the moment and look set to fight it out for the win between them.

Australia winner Kimi Raikkonen might have designs on splitting the pair but frankly we've given up trying to forecast when the Lotus is likely to be hot and when it's not.

The E21's slow tyre warm-up characteristics should benefit from the high loadings at this track, but then we thought that in Malaysia and Kimi ended up seventh.

With some new aerodynamic updates the Enstone team could find themselves back at the sharp end at their home race but their hit-and-miss season reduces this to a guessing game so we'll pass Raikkonen over on this occasion.

Far better to side with Force India for whom Adrian Sutil has deserved a bucketload more points than he's achieved so far.

Canada will be regarded as another race that got away for Sutil, who would have finished sixth if not for a drive-through penalty for not reacting to blue flags.

Misjudgements and bad luck have kept his points tally down to 17 but this doesn't reflect the German's outright pace in a neat car that is kind to its tyres.

Sutil and Paul di Resta have fired the Silverstone-based team ahead of McLaren in the constructors' championship on merit and the former driver in particular continues to be underrated by the layers.

He's 9/2 to repeat his top-six finish in Monaco with bwin (and 4/1 across the board), while a double points-finish for the team who live next door to the track is simply too long at 21/10.

  • Friday's practice sessions will take place at 1000 and 1400; Saturday's starts at 1000, with qualifying at 1300. The race is scheduled for 1300 on Sunday (BST).

  • Preview posted at 1030 BST on 26/06/2013.