Daniel Ricciardo achieved his third career victory at Spa-Francorchamps, as the Formula 1 championship protagonists Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton collided.
The Red Bull Racing driver made a habit of picking up the pieces when the Silver Arrows trips up, and the Australian produced another flawless race to fend off the recovering Rosberg by just 3.3 seconds to score his second consecutive win.
Rosberg extended his championship lead after a recovery drive to second, while Mercedes team-mate Hamilton posted his third retirement of the season.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen looked set to score his first podium of the season, but ultimately lost out to the Williams of Valtteri Bottas in the closing stages of the Belgian Grand Prix.
As for the defending Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel, the Red Bull driver won a thrilling late battle for fifth from the McLarens of Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button, and Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari.
The Mercedes drivers locked out the front row by some distance in wet qualifying, but collided on lap two, as slow-starting poleman Rosberg attempted to re-pass Hamilton for the lead on the run to Les Combes.
Rosberg had a look around the outside of his team-mate but clipped Hamilton’s left-rear tyre as he backed out of the move and tried to tuck back in.
Hamilton limped back to the pits with a puncture and floor damage from a brief excursion, and spent the rest of his race battling a lack of pace in his W05.
Lewis pleaded with his team to retire his car to save engine mileage. He eventually retired to the pits with five laps to the flag.
Rosberg was told to stay out with a damaged front wing endplate after the incident.
That made the championship leader vulnerable, but he retained the lead as the top six ran in close formation early on, before the German dived into the pits to begin the first round of stops on lap eight of 44 and took a new front wing.
That dropped him behind Raikkonen’s Ferrari, which stopped on the same lap as Rosberg and leapt up from sixth to second as the first round of pit stops played out.
The pit delay ultimately left Rosberg fourth, behind Vettel’s Red Bull, while new leader Ricciardo (who crucially passed his Red Bull team-mate when the reigning Vettel saved a wild moment on the exit of Pouhon on lap five) eased away from Raikkonen at the front.
Rosberg switched to an alternative three-stop strategy over the conventional two, and dived into the pits for an early second stop on lap 17, having failed to pass Vettel and fallen behind the Williams of Bottas.
The Mercedes driver used his second set of medium Pirelli tyres to good effect, despite concerns over a front vibration, and rose back up to second when the other frontrunners made their final stops.
Rosberg had to pit for a third time with ten laps to go, which relieved the pressure on Ricciardo and dropped the Mercedes back to fourth, behind Raikkonen and the Williams of Valtteri Bottas, which slipstreamed past on the run to Les Combes.
Rosberg was quickly back through to third on his fresh set of tyres, passing Bottas at Blanchimont and then nailing Raikkonen easily on the Kemmel straight on the following lap.
The championship leader trailed Ricciardo by just under twenty seconds with eight laps to run and needed to be around 2.5 seconds per lap faster than the Australian to overhaul him, but he ultimately fell short by 3.3 seconds at the finish.
Bottas claimed his fourth podium of the season in third, while Raikkonen recorded the best result for Ferrari in fourth.
Vettel had been in podium contention, but had to come back through the pack after switching to a three-stop strategy.
He took advantage of the battling between Magnussen, Alonso and Button to claim fifth, while Magnussen just held off McLaren team-mate Button for sixth.
But after the Belgian Grand Prix, race stewards have decided the Kevin Magnussen was to aggressive in fending off Fernando Alonso and decided to penalise the McLaren driver with a twenty-second penalty.
Alonso – who incurred a five-second penalty for his Ferrari mechanics being late away from the grid – damaged his Ferrari in the late battling, which included a three-abreast moment at Les Combes, and trailed home eighth after starting fourth.
Sergio Perez and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat rounded out the points scorers in ninth and tenth, with Kvyat just holding off Perez’s Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg by 0.3 second.
The second Williams of Felipe Massa finished a disappointing P13, behind the second Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne.
So a dramatic race at Spa-Francorchamps with the main talking point over that racing incident between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. The fault lies in the championship leader as he mis-judged the move on his team-mate.
It’s going to be fascinating what Mercedes will do to prevent this incident occurring again. Team orders could come into play but the drivers are still fighting for the title.
Belgian Grand Prix race results, after 44 laps:
1. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1h24m36.556s
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes +3.383s
3. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes +28.032s
4. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +36.815s
5. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault +52.196s
6. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes +54.580s
7. Fernando Alonso Ferrari +1m01.162s
8. Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes +1m04.293s
9. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault +1m05.347s
10. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes +1m05.697s
11. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault +1m11.920s
12. Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes +1m14.262s*
13. Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes +1m15.975s
14. Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari +1m22.447s
15. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari +1m30.825s
16. Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari -1 lap
17. Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault -1 lap
18. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari -5 laps
*Twenty-second penalty for forcing a driver off track
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 38 laps
Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 332 lap
Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1 lap
Andre Lotterer Caterham-Renault 1 lap
1. Nico Rosberg 220
2. Lewis Hamilton 191
3. Daniel Ricciardo 156
4. Fernando Alonso 121
5. Valtteri Bottas 110
6. Sebastian Vettel 98
7. Nico Hülkenberg 70
8. Jenson Button 68
9. Felipe Massa 40
10. Kimi Räikkönen 39
11. Kevin Magnussen 37
12. Sergio Pérez 33
13. Jean-Éric Vergne 11
14. Romain Grosjean 8
15. Daniil Kvyat 8
16. Jules Bianchi 2
1. Mercedes 411
2. Red Bull-Renault 254
3. Ferrari 160
4. Williams-Mercedes 150
5. McLaren-Mercedes 105
6. Force India-Mercedes 103
7. Toro Rosso-Renault 19
8. Lotus-Renault 8
9. Marussia-Ferrari 2
10. Sauber-Ferrari 0
11. Caterham-Renault 0
Next race: Italian Grand Prix, Monza. September 5-7.