Vettel storms to victory, extends lead in title race
SPA FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium - Agence France-Presse
Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany (C) celebrates after winning the Belgian F1 Grand Prix at the Circuit of Spa-Francorchamps August 25, 2013. REUTERS PhotoSebastian Vettel delivered a crushing blow to his title rivals on Sunday 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, 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, pulling him level with Briton Nigel Mansell.
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 and the 54th podium finish of his career, drawing Hamilton alongside three-time champion Austrian Niki Lauda.
Vettel was delighted.
"It was a fantastic race for us from start to finish," he said.
"It was very good tactics and it helped to get past Lewis on the first lap.
"We were a bit afraid of the rain coming but it was a great race.
"I feel good, winning helps, the car was much better going into the race so we had the pace to control it.
"The guys on the pit wall were not as stressed and in terms of rain there was nothing critical." Alonso admitted to being bored by the race.
"We had to recover some places -- we were not OK yesterday.
"But today it was a little bit boring, we get second place, but no threat to Sebastian and had no threat from behind.
"This has been an important weekend for us and the team and we arrived full motivated -- and in Monza (the next race in a fortnight) we would like to give some smiles to our fans." Hamilton praised his team.
"We had a tough race, but the team did a great job." 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.
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.
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 in 39 races due to a brake problem with his Lotus and saw him drop from second in the title race to fourth.
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.
Starting from the 31st pole of his career and his fourth in succession, Hamilton made a clean departure from the grid to lead through La Source hairpin and down through Eau Rouge.
But Vettel, showing the speed of his Red Bull car uphill through Radillon, was able to glide past the Mercedes on the long run down to Malmedy.
Behind the two leaders, Alonso made a typically excellent start from ninth and climbed to fifth as Webber, from third, slipped back to sixth.
Alonso, a two-time world champion, revelled in the conditions, passing Button and Rosberg as he climbed to third by lap 10, Hamilton hanging on to Vettel at the front where the gap was 4.3 seconds.
Hamilton pitted after 12 laps for new medium compound tyres, rejoining ninth, while Perez was handed a drive-through penalty for forcing Grosjean off the circuit at Les Combes.
This left Vettel leading Alonso by 7.4 ahead of Webber, before they both pitted after 13 laps while Hamilton struggled to pass a feisty Grosjean until he surged by on lap 14.
Vettel pitted after 14 laps and emerged second behind Button's McLaren until lap 17 when he regained the lead with Alonso third after passing Hamilton.
Once Button pitted Alonso moved into second and with Hamilton in third the status quo for the podium places remained unchanged.