Sebastian Vettel has led home a Red Bull Racing one-two in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.
The Australian recovered from a poor start to close to within 3.7s of his team-mate by the chequered flag, having completed one less stop in a race punctuated by a Safety Car to recover Lewis Hamilton’s crashed McLaren.
Jenson Button took third late in the going from Fernando Alonso, while Michael Schumacher fought through from 24th on the grid to finish fifth.
Nico Rosberg, Adrian Sutil, Felipe Massa, Vitaly Petrov and Pastor Maldonado rounded out the top 10.
Despite his Mercedes blowing considerable smoke prior to the start of the race, Rosberg jumped from to fifth on the grid to be second at La Source, before sensationally relieving Vettel of the lead on the run between Raidillon and Les Combes.
It took the reigning World Champion just two laps to return serve on his countryman however, while Webber – running eighth after his poor start – confirmed pre-race fears of heavy front-tyre wear by pitting to switch to the prime tyre on Lap 3.
Vettel handed the lead back to Rosberg by also choosing to shed his first set of tyres early – pitting one lap after his team-mate for a new set of options.
Alonso and Hamilton also made it around Rosberg before all three pitted, ensuring Vettel would once again be in the lead after a dozen laps, ahead of Alonso and the recovering Webber. The Spaniard briefly lost second to Webber on his out-lap thanks to a brilliant move by the Red Bull driver through Eau Rouge, before Alonso retook the position one lap later.
The race then took a further twist on Lap 13 when Hamilton and Kamui Kobayashi collided at Les Combes, sending the McLaren hard into the outside armco barrier and initiating a Safety Car period.
Hamilton had passed Kobayashi exiting Raidillon, but appeared unaware of his Sauber rival’s attempt to retake the position around the outside heading into Les Combes, leading to the collision.
With his six second gap over Alonso set to disappear, Vettel chose to pit under the Safety Car, ensuring he’d restart third behind Alonso and Webber.
It took just two laps for Vettel to regain the lead after the restart, with the Red Bull driver then escaping down the road at around a second a lap before Alonso made a second stop of his own.
After making his third and final stop on Lap 31, Vettel quickly regained the lead from a yet-to-pit Button and was not again headed.
Having been forced to pit for a new front wing on Lap 5 due to damage sustained from debris on the opening lap, Button had stopped for a second time under the Safety Car and appeared to be contemplating a mammoth 29 lap final stint on the prime tyre before finally pitting for options on Lap 33.
Alonso found himself again in second place – within six seconds of Vettel – with less than 10 laps to go, but struggled to find speed on the prime tyre, eventually dropping behind Webber (who chose another set of primes for his final stint) and Button by the flag.
Schumacher made it around Rosberg with less than two laps remaining to secure fifth, with the younger German on the prime tyre and being asked to save fuel as the 20-year-veteran zeroed in.
Seventh was Sutil, almost a full minute down on Vettel despite the Safety Car, with Massa recovering from a puncture to take eighth from Petrov on the very last lap.
Maldonado answered the critics of his qualifying actions by scoring his first ever points in 10th, while team-mate Barrichello’s chances of a strong result were extinguished thanks to late contact with Kobayashi while battling for 12th, resulting in a new nose being required for the Williams.
Bruno Senna’s race got off to a poor start – the Brazilian seeing his impressive seventh on the grid evaporate in a Turn 1 demolition derby.
Senna locked his right-front into La Source and collided with Jaime Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso, which in turn made heavy contact with Alonso’s Ferrari – breaking the younger Spaniard’s front suspension.
Contact further back in the pack saw Timo Glock and Heikki Kovalianen also needing to pit at the end of the opening lap.
It was a bad race all round for Toro Rosso, with Sebastien Buemi retiring after just six laps with a broken rear wing following contact with Sergio Perez.
It was also a short race for Australian Daniel Ricciardo, whose Hispania developed a major vibration during the Safety Car period.
The result sees Vettel extend his championship lead over Webber to 92 points with seven races remaining.
See below for the race result
|2||Mark Webber||RBR-Renault||44||+3.7 secs|
|3||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||44||+9.6 secs|
|4||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||44||+13.0 secs|
|5||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes||44||+47.4 secs|
|6||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||44||+48.6 secs|
|7||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||44||+59.7 secs|
|8||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||44||+66.0 secs|
|9||Vitaly Petrov||Renault||44||+71.9 secs|
|10||Pastor Maldonado||Williams-Cosworth||44||+77.6 secs|
|11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||44||+83.9 secs|
|12||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber-Ferrari||44||+91.9 secs|
|13||Bruno Senna||Renault||44||+92.9 secs|
|14||Jarno Trulli||Lotus-Renault||43||+1 Lap|
|15||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus-Renault||43||+1 Lap|
|16||Rubens Barrichello||Williams-Cosworth||43||+1 Lap|
|17||Jerome d’Ambrosio||Virgin-Cosworth||43||+1 Lap|
|18||Timo Glock||Virgin-Cosworth||43||+1 Lap|
|19||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT-Cosworth||43||+1 Lap|
|Ret||Sergio Perez||Sauber-Ferrari||27||+17 Laps|
|Ret||Daniel Ricciardo||HRT-Cosworth||13||+31 Laps|
|Ret||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren-Mercedes||12||+32 Laps|
|Ret||Sebastien Buemi||STR-Ferrari||6||+38 Laps|
|Ret||Jaime Alguersuari||STR-Ferrari||0||+44 Laps|
See below for the updated championship points standings
|16||Paul di Resta||8|
|19||Pedro de la Rosa||0|