Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel took a dominant victory in the Belgian Grand Prix to extend his championship lead to 46 points. The German was untroubled after passing pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton on the first lap and went on to set the fastest lap.
Rain threatened for the entire 44 laps, but it never eventuated, meaning a worry-free race for the German.
Practice and Qualifying
Spa is always good for a surprise or two and this year was no different. FP1 saw both Force Indias behind Alonso's Ferrari and rain-hit qualifying itself saw both Marussias and a Caterham into Q2.
The Red Bulls resumed normal service in FP2, with a mix of Lotuses and Ferraris behind. Saturday's FP3 session was also headed by the Red Bull's Vettel and Webber split by the threatening Ferrari of Alonso.
The thrilling final part of qualifying went down to who could leave it longest. Paul di Resta bravely went out on intermediates when all else were on slicks. For a time it looked as if the Scot would be on the front row, but ended the sesion fifth.
Hamilton took his fourth pole, the last car to set a time, with Vettel and Webber behind. Rosberg took fourth, Button sixth and the Ferraris finished behind the Lotuses.
The skies over the Ardennes were cloudy and a huge crowd had packed in to the classic Spa circuit - including Greenpeace protestors dressed as polar bears who took to the main grandstand roof.
Webber got a poor start but Vettel's was terrific. He took Hamilton before Les Coombes and drove away.
Alonso shot through to fifth and Button found himself in fourth. Rosberg also got a good start, grabbing third.
Grosjean pushed Raikkonen off at La Source, the Finn falling to tenth. A lap later Raikkonen was past again, but no doubt displeased.
Before the DRS could be switched on, Vettel extended his lead to almost three seconds, whereupon he was told to save his tyres.
Massa complained of a KERS failure, a blank steering wheel and was convinced he had frong wing damage.
His team leader was having a better time of it, passing Button for fourth on the Kemmel straight.
Webber settled into fifth and Alonso took third on the next lap.
Raikkonen struggled to pass Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg but the Lotus driver finally prevailed on lap nine.
Further down the road, Webber and Rosberg fought over fourth, the Red Bull driver having to contend with a robust defence from the German. Rosberg pitted on lap 13 before Webber could resume attacking after allowing his tyres some mercy.
Sergio Perez was penalised for driving Romain Grosjean off the track when he passed the Lotus, ruining what had been one of his better races for McLaren. The stewards ruled Perez at fault, despite Grosjean appearing to have enough room to stay on the track.
Hamilton pitted on lap 13, dropping him to eighth. Webber pitted on lap 13, exiting the puts behind Alonso, leaving Butotn in second, a distant fifteen seconds behind leader Vettel, who pitted a lap later.
Alonso's pit stop put him ahead of Hamilton, but the Mercedes driver was having none of it, battling Alonso hard to regain the place. Further back, Rosberg won his battle with Grosjean, using DRS.
Kimi Raikkonen made the first DRS-free overtake of the race at La Source, forcing his way past di Resta at the Bus Stop. Raikkonen's front brakes were ominously smoky, however.
Webber easily gained Grosjean's place on lap 17 after the Lotus driver got it wrong at La Source.
The next DRS-free pass came courtesy of Alonso getting by Button, who was pitting from second, having been passed by Vettel soon after the reigning champion's stop.
Raikkonen was on a mission to salvage his race, taking Gutierrez around the outside at Rivage after passing Sutil.
By lap 22, Webber drew up on Nico Rosberg's rear wing to resume his battle with the second Mercedes.
As Grosjean made his first stop, Raikkonen found himself right up behind Felipe Massa. The Ferrari, despite its many failures, kept the Lotus behind for several laps, its long seventh gear keeping Raikkonen's DRS-assisted Lotus at bay.
The Finn attacked on lap 26 at the Bus Stop chicane but he speared off the road, straight past Alonso who was lucky to survive as the Lotus streaked past.
Raikkonen turned around and went into the pits to end his run of 27 consecutive points finishes and 38 consecutive race finishes, with a suspected brake failure on his front right wheel. It turned out a helmet visor tear off had blocked the brake duct.
Lewis Hamilton made his second pit stop on lap 27, fitting hard tyres and getting a quick tweak of the front wing.
On lap 28 it all went wrong for Paul di Resta and Pastor Maldonado. Four cars fired into the Bus Stop, only two got out unscathed, those of Gutierrez and Sutil.
Maldonado had outbraked himself to pass Gutierrez. Maldonado was boxed in by Sutil and there was contact, through no fault of the German. This pushed the Venezuelan into the rear of di Resta's car, tearing off the left rear corner.
As the carbon fibre settled, Sutil got alongside Gutierrez on the run down to Eau Rouge and even had time to gesticulate at the Mexican while passing him at well over 250km/h. Gutierrez later got a penalty for leaving the track and gaining and advantage.
Maldonado got going again while di Resta trudged the short distance to the pits, his car well out of the way and preventing a safety car deployment.
The Williams driver was later penalised for causing the collision, but his race was over anyway.
Alonso pitted on lap 28, allowing Webber through to second. He pitted on lap 30 and rejoined in sixth on a set of fresh medium tyres.
On lap 32, Vettel's engineer radioed him to tell him to use the tyres to build a gap as the team feared rain before the end of the race. Webber, too, was using his tyres, closing in on Rosberg.
The McLaren pitwall were running their strategy fast and loose, asking Button which tyre he might like for his second stop before later telling him he might be able to stick with a one-stop strategy.
He eventually made the stop as the tyres went away from him, putting paid to his dreams of a podium.
Alsonso was running a strong second with Hamilton gamely hanging on to third.
In the closing laps Hulkenberg and Vergne had an entertaining battle through Les Coombes, with Hulkenberg first pushign Vergne almost off the track. Vergne held the line and pushed the Sauber wide on the exit of the second part of the corner without having made the pass.
Daniel Ricciardo's disastrous qualifying was forgotten when he overtook Sergio Perez on lap 42 for tenth and a point.
Vettel took the flag 16 seconds ahead of Alonso who was ten seconds ahead of Hamilton.
Webber finished fifth, having had trouble with this clutch on the way to the start line. "I would've sat behind Nico all day. He was strong in sector one and we didn't have the top speed to clear him."
Formula 1 returns at the Italian Grand Prix in the Royal Park Monza in two weeks.
- Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull-Renault 1h23m42.196s
- Fernando Alonso - Ferrari +16.869s
- Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes +27.734s
- Nico Rosberg - Mercedes +29.872s
- Mark Webber - Red Bull-Renault +33.845s
- Jenson Button - McLaren-Mercedes +40.794s
- Felipe Massa - Ferrari +53.922s
- Romain Grosjean - Lotus-Renault +55.846s
- Adrian Sutil - Force India-Mercedes +1m09.547s
- Daniel Ricciardo - Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1m13.470s
- Sergio Perez - McLaren-Mercedes +1m21.936s
- Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1m26.740s
- Nico Hulkenberg - Sauber-Ferrari +1m28.258s
- Esteban Gutierrez - Sauber-Ferrari +1m40.436s
- Valtteri Bottas - Williams-Renault +1m47.456s
- Giedo van der Garde - Caterham-Renault +1 lap
- Pastor Maldonado - Williams-Renault +1 lap
- Jules Bianchi - Marussia-Cosworth +1 lap
- Max Chilton - Marussia-Cosworth +2 laps
- Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 26
- Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 25
- Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 8
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