Sebastian Vettel took a comfortable Belgian Grand Prix win to extend his lead in the Drivers’ Championship to 46 points over Fernando Alonso, who finished second for Ferrari at Spa-Francorchamps ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
On Saturday, Hamilton had narrowly beaten Vettel to pole position but after the race start Vettel exacted revenge using the tow from the Mercedes to breeze past the Briton on the long Kemmel Straight.
From there the German and his Red Bull Racing RB9 were flawless. Vettel only briefly ceded the lead to Jenson Button during his first stop on lap 14 but after passing the McLaren driver, who had yet to pit, at the end of the same lap, he seized total control, eventually finishing 16.8 seconds clear of Alonso.
“It was fantastic race for us,” he said afterwards. “From start to finish [we had] really good tactics. Obviously it helped the first lap to have the tow off Lewis through Eau Rouge and then I was flying. Once I passed him we had incredible pace and really could control the race until the end.
“We were a bit afraid of the rain coming towards the end but I think it just passed the circuit. A great race and a fantastic result. Can’t be any better.”
Alonso’s race was more eventful – at least through the first half. After a rain-disrupted qualifying, the Spaniard was left to line up ninth on the grid. He didn’t stay there long after the race start. Making a good getaway, the Ferrari driver took a tight line through La Source and the move paid off, boosting him to fifth as the field powered through Eau Rouge.
On lap four he muscled past Button to claim P4 and then raced past Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg two laps later to move into a podium position.
After his first stop Alonso rejoined behind Hamilton but after the Mercedes driver erred at La Source on lap 15 Alonso used his better pace through Eau Rouge to set up a passing move under DRS on the Kemmel Straight. Hamilton attempted to respond but Alonso rebuffed the challenge.
Armed with greater pace on the day, the Ferrari driver was soon building a gap, which, by the time of the chequered flag, had stretched to almost 11 seconds.
“We had to recover some places [at the start],” said Alonso. “We were not OK yesterday but everything went OK from the start and then the car has the speed to overtake some cars and it was a little bit boring. After we got the second place we were nowhere near Sebastian and not a big threat from behind.”
It was left to Rosberg and Mark Webber to conduct perhaps the closest front-of-order battle of the second half of the race.
The Red Bull Racing driver made a poor start and dropped from third to sixth by the time the field was flying through Radillon. He passed Button for fifth position in the opening laps and set about chasing down Rosberg.
The Mercedes driver was no easy target, however, and though the gap sank as low as half a second at some points during the race, Webber could not find a way past the German and finished fifth.
Button finished sixth, holding his starting position thanks to a considered drive.
In front of Button on the grid was Paul Di Resta, who had claimed fifth place thanks to a clever bit of strategy in the wet final qualifying session.
Luck deserted him in the race however and after a poor start he went backwards until he was eventually dumped out in a collision with Williams’ Pastor Maldonado, who collided with Adrian Sutil at the final chicane before being pitched into Di Resta’s path. Maldonado carried on after pitting for repairs but Di Resta’s race was over, his Force India missing its rear left wheel and rear wing.
Felipe Massa finished seventh for Ferrari, with Romain Grosjean eighth, ahead of Sutil. The final points place went to Daniel Ricciardo, who climbed from 19th on the grid to claim tenth at the end thanks to a good strategy that saw him take on medium tyres on lap 33 with the result that good pace at the end allowed him to pass Sergio Perez with four laps to go.