• Belgian Grand Prix

Clinical Hamilton wins at Spa

Martin Williamson August 28, 2010

Lewis Hamilton produced a clinical and dominant display to win an incident-packed Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, capitalising on a shocking start from Mark Webber to take the lead into the first corner and never being headed thereafter. Webber recovered superbly to take second, although he still surrendered the championship lead to Hamilton, with Robert Kubica in the much-improved Renault in third.

Throughout the 44-lap race the weather was at the forefront of the teams' minds, and the shower which fell at the three-quarter mark caused a series of crashes and spins and, courtesy of frenetic activity in the pits and a safety-car intervention, ensured a dramatic finale to the grand prix. At times it seemed the busiest people were the meteorologists and the stewards.

Only once - two safety-car sessions aside - did Hamilton look troubled. On the 35th lap as light rain started to fall he lost control and ran into the gravel, just maintaining enough control to avoid hitting a wall before rejoining the track. Such was the extent of his lead he was able to pit soon after and still stay ahead.

Webber's afternoon began dreadfully when his anti-stall engaged at the start and by the time he reached the second corner he was back in seventh. Although he efficiently clawed his way back to third he appeared to lack the power to pass the Renault, but a pit-stop blunder by Kubica - he overshot the marks - allowed him to emerge in second and once in front he was not seriously challenged.

Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button both had a forgettable day. Button held second for more half the race, using all his experience to keep Vettel, Kubica and Webber at bay despite damage to his front wing which reduced the car's downforce, but his race ended when Vettel made a silly mistake, overcorrected and slammed into the McLaren. Vettel was able to rejoin but the damage to Button's car - and quite probably his championship hopes - was terminal.

Vettel's hapless afternoon did not end there. The collision resulted in a drive-through penalty, and he then suffered a puncture when he clipped Tonio Liuzzi's Force India as well as a pit-lane touching of wheels with Fernando Alonso. The latter, at least, was not his fault but his impetuosity again appeared to undermine his natural ability.

Alonso's afternoon was no less eventful. That he was able to continue after being hit hard by Rubens Barrichello's Williams on the first lap was amazing. Barrichello, on his 300th start, was left to walk back to his motorhome, ejected from what should have been his own party.

The Ferrari team then blundered, gambling on intermediate tyres and almost immediately having to make another change, but Alonso even managed to fight back from that before he skidded into the barriers in the rain near the end. By comparison his team-mate Felipe Massa was almost anonymous, keeping clear of the chaos around him to finish a solid fourth.

Hamilton leads the field into the first corner © Getty Images
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Adrian Sutil showed the improvements made by Force India to secure fifth place, almost dismissively cruising past Michael Schumacher on the 25th lap and showing calm assurance throughout. Schumacher had got as high as fifth, despite clipping team-mate Nico Rosberg at one point, but Rosberg had the last laugh when he outmuscled the renowned rain specialist three laps from the end.

Vitaly Petrov, who had started at the back of grid after a mishap on Saturday, underlined the improvements made to the Renaults by clawing his way up to ninth. On the evidence of today, he will be pushing for a top-six position in a fortnight at Monza and the remainder of the season should see a real secondary battle between Ferrari, Mercedes, Force India and Renault for the best-of-the-rest crown.

Further down the field there were collisions aplenty - only those which wiped out Barrichello and Button were substantial - and the minor places were swapped with head-spinning speed as teams gambled, with differing success, on tyre changes as the rain fell. But the main protagonists stayed clear of trouble allowing a jubilant Hamilton to take his first win at Spa.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA

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Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA Martin Williamson, who grew up in the era of James Hunt, Niki Lauda and sideburns, became managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group in 2007 after spells with Sky Sports, Sportal and Cricinfo