Championship leader Sebastian Vettel took his seventh Grand Prix victory of the season in a thrilling Belgian Grand Prix. He led home a Red Bull Racing one-two with Mark Webber close behind following a bad start off the grid.
This was the perfect result for Vettel following three disappointing races. To win his seventeenth career Grand Prix at the magnificent Spa-Francorchamps circuit, Vettel is well on his way to take the drivers’ title come the end of the championship.
McLaren’s Jenson Button made some stunning overtaking manoeuvres to recover from P13 to finish in third. His team-mate Lewis Hamilton had to retire following a clash with Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi.
Fernando Alonso was a contender for race victory but fell down to fourth in the final stint on the Prime tyre.
As for Michael Schumacher, celebrating his twentieth anniversary since making his Formula One debut, the seven-time world champion drove a solid race from last on the grid to take fifth, ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.
A chaotic start had seen Mark Webber stutter off the grid (once again) and fall from third to eighth, as Nico Rosberg burst through to second and then slipstream past Vettel to take a shock lead for Mercedes by Les Combes, with Felipe Massa, Hamilton and the fast-starting Alonso next up.
Rosberg’s lead lasted until lap three, when Vettel activated his Drag Reduction System and eased ahead on the Kemmel Straight. But the tyre issues that had been feared prior to the race started early for the Red Bulls, with Webber pitting after just three laps, and Vettel coming in from the lead next time around due to blistering.
That put Rosberg back in front, though he had Alonso right behind as the Spaniard had swiftly passed Hamilton, then outbraked team-mate Massa when the sister Ferrari lost momentum in a failed move on Rosberg. Hamilton also capitalised to further demote Massa as the shuffle unfolded.
By lap seven Alonso used a combination of DRS and KERS to sweep past Rosberg on the Kemmel Straight to move into the lead, with Hamilton doing likewise on the following lap.
The Ferrari and McLaren managed to keep their initial tyres intact until laps eight and eleven respectively, but the Red Bulls’ earlier pit stops had worked out better for them – and as Hamilton pitted from the lead, Vettel was sweeping around the outside of Rosberg in an epic move into Blanchimont ready to head the field again.
Shortly beforehand, Webber had produced a similarly spectacular move on Alonso into the Eau Rouge as the Ferrari emerged from its pit stop, though Alonso would repass the Red Bull next time around.
Hamilton’s challenge then ended on lap 13, when a brush of wheels with the yet-to-pit Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber on the run into Les Combes. The McLaren spun into the barriers, prompting a safety car period.
With the Safety Car out on track, Vettel immediately pitted for a fresh set of Pirellis, which meant that although Alonso was able to lead again from the restart, the champion was soon easing ahead once more with a DRS pass.
From then onwards Vettel was effectively untouchable, pulling away from Alonso through the next stint and clinching his first win since Valencia. When the Ferrari switched to the Prime for the final run to the chequered flag, Alonso’s pace tailed off dramatically and he found himself being passed by first Webber, then Button.
The Hungarian Grand Prix winner had driven another epic race, getting the Prime tyre out of the way in the first stint, then overtaking car after car to move himself into podium contention. Button secured his place on the rostrum by passing the troubled Alonso with two laps left.
Michael Schumacher took a superb fifth place from the back of the grid – like Button using the Prime tyre in the opening stint then charging spectacularly. His Mercedes team-mate Rosberg drifted back to sixth as the race progressed, ahead of Force India’s Adrian Sutil and the Renault of Vitaly Petrov.
An additional pit stop to replace a deflating tyre left Massa in ninth spot, while Pastor Maldonado put behind his qualifying controversy to score the final point for Williams.
Bruno Senna’s return to Formula One resulted in P13 for Renault. This was a bad result following his impressive qualifying form. It didn’t help he was quite ambition at La Source which ended in a tangle with Jaime Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso. This first-corner clash earned the Brazilian a drive-through penalty.
Virgin’s Timo Glock was also given a drive-through after being adjudged to have triggered further multi-car mayhem at the back end of the pack.
So a great result for Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing. His lead in the drivers’ championship looks increasingly omnipresent with 259 points, ahead of Webber on 167, Alonso on 157, Button on 149 and Hamilton on 146. Massa remains sixth with 74, but Schumacher’s fifth hoists him clear of the ninth-place scrap with 42 points to Rosberg’s 56.
In the constructors’, Red Bull Racing had a very profitable day, garnering 43 points to bring their leading score to 426 ahead of McLaren on 295 and Ferrari on 231.
Belgian Grand Prix race results, 44 laps:
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1h26.44.893
2. Webber Red Bull-Renault +3.741s
3. Button McLaren-Mercedes +9.669s
4. Alonso Ferrari +13.022s
5. Schumacher Mercedes +47.464s
6. Rosberg Mercedes +48.674s
7. Sutil Force India-Mercedes +59.713s
8. Massa Ferrari +1m06.076s
9. Petrov Renault +1m11.917s
10. Maldonado Williams-Cosworth +1m17.615s
11. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes +1m23.994s
12. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari +1m31.976s
13. Senna Renault +1m32.985s
14. Trulli Lotus-Renault +1 lap
15. Kovalainen Lotus-Renault +1 lap
16. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth +1 lap
17. D’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth +1 lap
18. Glock Virgin-Cosworth +1 lap
19. Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth +1 lap
Fastest lap: Massa, 1:23.415
Perez Sauber-Ferrari 27 laps
Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 13 laps
Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 12 laps
Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 6 laps
Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1 lap
World Championship standings, round 11:
1. Vettel 259
2. Webber 167
3. Alonso 157
4. Button 149
5. Hamilton 146
6. Massa 74
7. Rosberg 56
8. Schumacher 42
9. Petrov 34
10. Heidfeld 34
11. Kobayashi 27
12. Sutil 24
13. Buemi 12
14. Alguersuari 10
15. Di Resta 8
16. Perez 8
17. Barrichello 4
18. Maldonado 1
1. Red Bull-Renault 426
2. McLaren-Mercedes 295
3. Ferrari 231
4. Mercedes 88
5. Renault 68
6. Sauber-Ferrari 35
7. Force India-Mercedes 32
8. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 22
9. Williams-Cosworth 5
Next race: Italian Grand Prix, Monza. September 9-11.