Hamilton weathers the storm to take Spa victory

Lewis Hamilton charged to victory in an incident-packed Belgian Grand Prix.

The McLaren driver took full advantage of Mark Webber’s slow start to lead from start to finish, in a race which saw three of the five title pretenders suffer major setbacks.

Mark Webber recovered brilliantly to finish second for Red Bull, with Renault’s Robert Kubica securing his second podium of the year in third.

After eliminating Jenson Button from the race, Sebastian Vettel’s hopes were seriously dented by a subsequent drive through penalty and then a puncture, which dropped down the order to fifteenth.

Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso crashed out in the latter stages of the race, despite a superb comeback drive from a disastrous start.

Hamilton takes full advantage as Webber flunks the start

With rain beginning to spit down around the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, it was Hamilton who made the better getaway, as Webber’s RB6 bogged down at the start and dropped him down to sixth.

However, as the cars approached Les Combes for the first time it was clear that the conditions were continuing to worsen, with drivers slithering around for grip.

On lap 2 Jenson Button made full use of McLaren’s superior straight line speed to power around Robert Kubica and into second.

Meanwhile, there was drama at the Bus Stop Chicane as Rubens Barrichello outbraked himself on the slippery surface and ploughed straight into the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.

Although Alonso’s car surprisingly survived the shunt and hobbled into the pits to change to intermediate tyres, Barrichello’s 300th Grand Prix came to a premature end.

Subsequently the safety car would be required to move the damaged FW32 bunching the field up.

Short Safety car period as threat of rain deteriorates

As the safety car returned to the pits, it was the McLaren duo who powered away up to Eau Rouge.

However, as Hamilton began to open up a considerable lead over the rest of the pack, it soon became apparent that team-mate Jenson Button could not match his pace the reigning world champion clearly struggling with damage to his front wing.

Meanwhile, Ferrari’s gamble on the weather failed to pay dividends as on lap five Fernando Alonso was forced to trundle back into the pits, dropping him down the order.

As the Spaniard was forced to pick his way back up through the field, the Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher were quietly moving up the order and nullifying their earlier grid penalties.

However the two drivers were soon made contact with each other at Les Combes, when battling with the Renault of Vitaly Petrov for ninth.

While the Russian swooped around the outside of Rosberg into the corner, Schumacher quickly followed through damaging his team-mate’s front wing.

The incident ultimately resulted in a massive loss of downforce for Rosberg, but Mercedes opted to keep him out on track with the prospect of rain returning to play its part.

Button suffers title setback after Vettel collision

Despite this, the race’s major incident came when Sebastian Vettel attempted to overtake Jenson Button on lap 16.

After getting a run out of Blanchimont, Vettel lost control of his Red Bull while changing line and ploughed straight into the side of the McLaren driver at the Bus Stop chicane a move which shattered Button’s side radiator and eliminated him immediately.

This would not be Vettel’s last incident, however. Although the German managed to return to the pits for a new front wing, he was soon given a drive-through penalty for his part in the accident with Button and then found himself trawling around the circuit with a right rear puncture after colliding with the Force India of Tonio Liuzzi.

Scare for the race leader as the rain returns

While the drama was unfolding behind him, Lewis Hamilton sat comfortably at the front of the pack and looked set to win with ease.

By lap 35, the British driver held more than an 11 second advantage over his nearest rival, when the clouds would once again open over the Belgian circuit and cause late drama.

Although the McLaren driver did not opt to pit at the first opportunity for intermediates, he nearly found himself out of the race when he ran wide and into the gravel at Rivage.

Hamilton appeared inches away from elimination as his front right tyre scraped the side of the tyre barrier. However, riding his luck, the 2008 champion safely made it back on to the track and back to the pits for intermediates.

The race leader was later followed by Robert Kubica in second and a recovering Mark Webber in third.

However it would be the Red Bull driver who would emerge ahead, as Kubica lost valuable time overshooting his pit box and forcing his mechanics to scurry around him.

As the rain continued to pour around various parts of the circuit, Fernando Alonso would be the next casualty, running wide at turn 8 and crashing into the barriers leaving his Ferrari stricken on the track.

The accident would prove to be yet another nail in the coffin of the 29-year-old’s title ambitions the Ferrari driver having fought his way up to eighth before the being caught out on the wet kerbs.

Consequently, the incident would trigger yet another safety car period but this would not deter Hamilton, who kept his head during the final four lap dash to the flag.

Shadowing him was Mark Webber who would be delighted to take second, considering Red Bull’s lack of optimism heading into the weekend.

Kubica completed a strong weekend for Renault, with Felipe Massa quiet securing fourth for Ferrari.

Adrian Sutil led home the Mercedes duo, with Nico Rosberg having gained revenge by overtaking his team-mate the very same point in the final couple of laps.

Kamui Kobayashi made amends for his disastrous qualifying effort to take third, with Petrov (Renault) and Alguersuari (Toro Rosso) rounding off the top ten.

So with his third victory of the season, Lewis Hamilton regains the initiative in the title battle, but with the championship heading to the ultra-fast Monza circuit before a barrage of flyaway race, it remains anyone’s game.

2010 Belgian Grand Prix
Circuit: Spa-Francorchamps
Laps: 44
Weather: Variable

Provisional Results:

Pos  Driver        Team                       Time
1.   Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           1h29m04.268s
2.   Webber        Red Bull-Renault                 +1.571
3.   Kubica        Renault                          +3.493
4.   Massa         Ferrari                          +8.264
5.   Sutil         Force India-Mercedes             +9.094
6.   Rosberg       Mercedes                        +12.359
7.   Schumacher    Mercedes                        +15.548
8.   Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari                  +16.678
9.   Petrov        Renault                         +23.851
10.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari              +29.457
11.  Liuzzi        Force India-Mercedes            +34.831
12.  De la Rosa    Sauber-Ferrari                  +36.019
13.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari              +39.895
14.  Hulkenberg    Williams-Cosworth                +1 lap
15.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault                 +1 lap
16.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Cosworth                   +1 lap
17.  Di Grassi     Virgin-Cosworth                  +1 lap
18.  Glock         Virgin-Cosworth                  +1 lap
19.  Trulli        Lotus-Cosworth                   +1 lap
20.  Yamamoto      HRT-Cosworth                    +2 laps
Ret. Alonso        Ferrari                       On lap 38
Ret. Button        McLaren-Mercedes              On lap 16
Ret. Senna         HRT-Cosworth                  On lap  6
Ret. Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth             On lap  1          

Fastest lap: Hamilton, 1m49.069s

World Championship standings after 13 of 19 rounds:                

Drivers:
1.   Hamilton     182
2.   Webber       179
3.   Vettel       151
4.   Button       147
5.   Alonso       141
6.   Massa        109
7.   Kubica       104
8.   Rosberg      102
9.   Sutil         45
10.  Schumacher    44
11.  Barrichello   30
12.  Kobayashi     21
13.  Petrov        19
14.  Liuzzi        12
15.  Hulkenberg    10
16.  Buemi          7
17.  De la Rosa     6
18.  Alguersuari    4       

Constructors:
1.  Red Bull-Renault      330
2.  McLaren-Mercedes      329
3.  Ferrari               250
4.  Mercedes              146
5.  Renault               123
6.  Force India-Mercedes   57
7.  Williams-Cosworth      40
8.  Sauber-Ferrari         27
9.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari     11