It was similar to the damage he picked up in the previous race in Canada, and the team opted to leave him out on track until the first pitstops, when they changed the wing. Up at the front, Hamilton got the hammer down to establish a gap over Vettel, ensuring that the German was too far behind to take advantage of DRS.
Just as the Briton was consolidating his position, however, the left-rear tyre of his Mercedes failed on the Wellington Straight. It left him with almost three-quarters of a lap to complete at low speed before his team could replace the ruined rubber and dropped him right out of contention.
Two laps later, Massa suffered a similar tyre failure on the left-rear corner of his Ferrari, and when Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso also had a high-speed deflation, it was clear that there was a widespread problem.
The safety car was deployed so that mangled tyre carcasses could be retrieved from the racetrack and the teams, organisers and Pirelli technicians could puzzle over what was going wrong. It was suspected that a kerb on the one of the track's high-speed corners was causing the issues, which was of little consolation to poor Hamilton, who had dropped out of the points by the time he resumed.
After a round of precautionary pitstops from the leaders, Vettel was left leading Rosberg by about three seconds.
That situation remained until, with just 11 laps to go, Vettel's car suddenly slowed with a lack of drive. He ground to a halt near the start-finish line, in a dangerous place, so the safety car was put out to give marshals the opportunity to clear the stricken Red Bull.
Rosberg, Alonso and Webber – who had made steady progress up the order after his first lap dramas – were all called in for precautionary tyre changes, but curiously Lotus didn't instruct Kimi Räikkönen to pit.
Stopping for rubber cost Webber and Alonso track position, but when the race resumed for a manic seven-lap sprint, the drivers on fresher tyres were able to make rapid progress up the order.
Webber charged past Sutil and Räikkönen to take over second place and the chase of Rosberg. Alonso made short work of the cars ahead of him to move up to third. Although Hamilton didn't change tyres during the safety car period, he shrewdly remained on Alonso's tail and followed him past the likes of Ricciardo, Sutil and Räikkönen to assume fourth.
Up at the front, Webber got to within one second of Rosberg, meaning he was able to deploy the DRS on the run down the Hangar Straight on the final lap. But the leader was also flying, and Rosberg held on to earn earn Mercedes its first British Grand Prix victory as a constructor since the 1955 race at Aintree, which was won by Stirling Moss.
Alonso was satisfied with third place after a challenging weekend, while fourth-placed Hamilton was encouraged that his Mercedes had showed race-winning pace before his tyre failure. A disgruntled Räikkönen and recovering Massa rounded out the top six.
Sutil and Ricciardo both turned in solid performances to net seventh and eighth, while di Resta once again served notice of his talent by driving from the back of the grid to finish ninth, just ahead of Hulkenberg.
British Grand Prix, 30 June 2013
1 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2 Mark Webber (Red Bull)
3 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
4 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
5 Kimi Räikkönen (Lotus)
6 Felipe Massa (Ferrari)
7 Adrian Sutil (Force India)
8 Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)
9 Paul de Resta (Force India)
10 Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber)