Sebastian Vettel delivered a crushing blow to his title rivals when he increased his lead in the drivers’ championship with a consummate triumph for Red Bull in the Belgian Grand Prix.
On a welcome dry afternoon at Spa Francorchamps in the Belgian Ardennes today, the 26-year-old German took the lead from pole-man Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap and then pulled clear to claim his fifth win of the year and the 31st of his career.
The defending triple world champion came home a comfortable 16.869 seconds ahead of second-placed Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari with Hamilton third for Mercedes. It was his fourth third-place of the year.
Vettel’s win, his second in Belgium, lifted him to a total of 197 points while Alonso climbed back to second on 151 with Hamilton third on 139. In the constructors championship Red Bull lead with 312 points ahead of Mercedes on 235.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate German Nico Rosberg finished fourth ahead of Australian Mark Webber in the second Red Bull and sixth-placed Briton Jenson Button for McLaren.
Brazilian Felipe Massa showed some signs of a revival in his own form by finishing seventh ahead of Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Lotus, German Adrian Sutil of Force India and Australian Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso.
With eight races remaining, Vettel’s win was an emphatic riposte to Hamilton’s speed and recent form, and his maiden victory for Mercedes in Hungary.
Finn Kimi Raikikonen failed to finish for the first time since he returned to Formula One from rallying. He was forced to retire for the first time in 39 races due to a brake problem with his Lotus.
Briton Paul Di Resta was also forced out after a collision when Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado of Williams drove into his Force India in the closing stages.
Earlier in the day, Webber told Australia’s Channel 10 that he believed fellow-Australian Ricciardo was set to replace him alongside Vettel next season.
He said: “The decision’s made. We all know who it is. I’m happy with that decision. It’s good for him and good for Australia.”
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