FERRARI'S KIMI RAIKKONEN has held off the charge of a fast-finishing Giancarlo Fisichella to end a year long winless streak and claim victory at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa.
Raikkonen and Fisichella were engaged in an enthralling race-long battle, constantly trading blistering lap times as they attempted to become the sixth driver to win a Grand Prix this season.
While Fisichella started on pole, Raikkonen made a strong start, surging into second before incidents involving championship leader Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton forced the introduction of the safety car.
Armed with KERS, Raikkonen then pounced on Fisichella at the restart, launching past the Italian to settle at the head of the race.
However, the Force India driver refused to bow down meekly; with an identical pit stop schedule to the Finn, Fisichella remained in close contact with his rival for the remainder of the race.
With a potential drive at Ferrari on the line, Fisichella was brilliant, constantly outpacing Raikkonen and showing greater outright speed as he tailed the former World Champion with metronome-like consistency.
But Raikkonen refused to be unsettled by the constant pressure to cross the line first in an error-free performance and secure his 18th career win, with Fisichella finishing second.
After making the initial pass on Fisichellla, Raikkonen said he was forced to use KERS as a defensive measure for the remainder of the race, admitting the Force India was the faster car.
?I knew that he was faster. Probably we did a little mistake to put on the harder tyres at the first pit stop and they just did not warm up and maybe like three laps before the stop they suddenly started to work much better. I was able to push harder,? he said.
?I knew that if I could keep him behind at the pit stop it is pretty difficult for him to get past. They were very fast in the middle sector, coming back to the last chicane.
?Sometimes they got very close but I just started to use the KERS in a slightly different way to make sure he was not going to get a run on me and it was not so difficult. I mean it is hard to overtake anyhow, so it was very easy.?
Red Bull?s Sebastian Vettel completed the podium with a solid display, setting the fastest lap on route to his sixth top-three finish of the season, replacing Australia?s Mark Webber in third in the championship standings.
Although Vettel was quickest through the final stint, the German was made to rue a sluggish start which saw him fail to gain any real ground before the first set of pit stops.
However, the 22-year-old faired better than his teammate Webber, whose race was effectively ended when he received a drive-through penalty from race stewards after he was released into oncoming traffic after his stop for the second time in three races.
Webber was fifth heading into his first stop, and seemed on course for a podium finish before the mix-up consigned him to another points-less finish.
Fellow championship rival Rubens Barrichello finished seventh to reduce Button?s lead to 16 points with five races remaining.