Mercedes gave the Silverstone crowd the victory they craved for but it was Nico Rosberg, not Lewis Hamilton, who took the chequered flag in an eventful British Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s hopes of repeating his 2008 success were over as early as the eighth lap when he suffered a spectacular tyre failure.
That appeared to leave the race wide open for Sebastian Vettel. But the German dropped out of the race with gearbox failure on the 41st lap.
It was Vettel's first DNF since Italy last year and the first time he had finished lower than fourth this season.
Rosberg's win was his second of the season, following his success in Monaco. And with Hamilton recovering well to take fourth place it was a good afternoon in the end for Mercedes.
It was a heroic race for Mark Webber, twice a winner here in recent years. In his final Silverstone Grand Prix he recovered from a poor start to take second place, beaten by just 0.7s, and he looked capable of winning if the event had lasted another lap or two.
Fernando Alonso showed his consistency once again to finish third.
Hamilton made a strong start to the race. But it was a disastrous getaway for Webber, who fell back through the field and then sustained front wing damage when he clashed with Romain Grosjean.
Hamilton increased his lead in front of the cheering grandstands and Alonso, who started in ninth, began to stir, once again showing that his race pace is better than that in practice.
Paul di Resta, who had been demoted from fifth to the back of the grid after using a car below the legal minimum in practice, managed to work his way up to 16th within a handful of laps and eventually finished ninth. Jenson Button finished 13th.
But hopes of a British win here blew up on the eighth lap. Hamilton was coming on to the Wellington straight when he suffered a left rear puncture and his left rear tyre immediately exploded. He could scarcely have been further away from the pits and it was a long limp home.
There was soon more debris on the track, as a competitive looking Felipe Massa suffered a puncture and slewed off the track.
There was then yet another spectacular tyre failure, this time to Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso. Again it was the rear left, and it put the Frenchman out of the race.
The safety car was brought out to bunch up the cars but nothing could stop Rosberg's charge to victory, his third in Formula One, as Mercedes emerged as the biggest threat to Red Bull for the constructors' championship.