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