Lewis Hamilton has regained the lead in the Drivers’ Championship by keeping a cool head to win a chaotic Belgian Grand Prix, finishing just under two seconds clear of Mark Webber, who was closely followed by Robert Kubica.
The winning margin over the Red Bull told little of the story, as Hamilton fundamentally dominated the 44-lap race from the start, outdragging a sluggish Webber off the grid, surviving two Safety Car interruptions, and livening his day up with his own trip through a gravel trap along the way!
Starting from pole, Webber’s usually customarily strong getaways deserted him when he needed them most, and he badly bogged it down off the line as his anti-stall kicked in, dropping him to sixth on the run to La Source.
This let Hamilton waltz off into the distance and into a lead that was never challenged, although he like many behind him slid off at the Bus Stop chicane when a brief ran shower hit on the opening lap.
As the track began to dry, Hamilton eased away from the following pack at the rate of half a second a lap, and had an 11-second lead by the time a much heavier, and longer, bout of rain began to fall on lap 35.
A little indecisive about when to pit for intermediate tyres, Hamilton slid off into the Rivage gravel trap, and missed the tyre barriers by millimetres as he scrabbled back onto the circuit, heading straight for the pits to change tyres.
With separate accidents and incidents for Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso during the race, Webber had climbed up to third by the final rain shower, and it became second place when Robert Kubica overshot his pit bay as he came in for intermediate tyres.
Webber and Hamilton’s principal rivals for the title (the trio named above) all had incident-filled races and failed to pick up a point between them.
Fernando Alonso fell victim to a T-boning from Rubens Barrichello on the opening lap, with the 300-Grand Prix veteran cannoning his Williams into the side of the Ferrari on the opening lap as the field braked for a damp Bus Stop chicane. The accident put Rubens out on the spot, but incredibly Alonso was able to pit – foolishly taking on intermediate tyres when the track was nowhere near ready for them – without damage and rejoin.
With the Spaniard having to pit again to remove said wrong tyres, he was out of sequence with the rest of the field, and crashed out late in the race when the conditions worsened.
Sebastian Vettel did everything he could to make sure he won’t be on Jenson Button’s Christmas card mailing list, with an ill-timed passing attempt at the Bus Stop that saw the young German succeed in destroying Button’s left radiator. Button retired on the spot, but Vettel continued and pitted for a new nose, only to be hit with a drive-through penalty for causing the collision.
His race went pear-shaped when he picked up a puncture after passing Vitantonio Liuzzi, and had to crawl around for nearly a full lap with a deflated left-rear tyre. He would eventually finish a disconsolate 15th.
Behind the Hamilton-Webber,Kubica trio came Felipe Massa, who drove a steady and mature race to fourth place. He finished ahead of Adrian Sutil, whose Force India was showing a mightily impressive turn of speed along Spa-Francorchamp’s lengthy straights, which included a neat passing move on Michael Schumacher for fifth.
Both Mercedes GP drivers staged impressive recovery drives to finish sixth and seventh – Nico Rosberg ahead of Schumacher – after starting well down the order by dint of their grid penalties. Neither driver pitted until the heavens opened later in the race, using a superior strategy decision to full effect to negate their cars’ relative lack of outright pace.
Kamui Kobayashi, Vitaly Petrov (who drove a great recovery drive and pulled the best passing move of the race on Nico Rosberg earlier on) and Jaime Alguersuari completed the points’-scoring positions.